One Year On: 5 Things We Learned About Dubai During COVID


Planes grounded, schools shut, borders closed; the pandemic came at us like an unhinged freight train.

And although there’s still a way to go, we can see a trend of decreasing COVID-19 cases, coupled with a successful vaccination programme, and finally, (FINALLY!) we can breathe a sigh of relief. There is light at the end of this COVID tunnel.

It’s just over a year since DXB announced it would close and this fact alone still shocks me. The world’s largest airport for international travel announcing it would close with less than 24 hours notice, in what world does that happen?

This was one decision, among many, taken by governments around the world and a year on, we’re looking back at how Dubai changed and what we learned about this city when it tackled one of its greatest challenges so far.

One Year On: 5 Things We Learned About Dubai During COVID

Local businesses showed real grit and were adaptable in hard times

I went to my first drive-thru cinema during COVID. It was at that stage when leaving home still felt weird, but VOX at Mall of the Emirates pulled out all the stops making movie-going feel safe at a scary time.

But more impressive still was the small businesses that pulled through. When the government made the call that restaurants/cafes/salons/offices could open, at reduced capacity, small venues immediately got to work. Staff were kitted out in protective gear and digital QR menu codes and transparent shields between tables appeared overnight. When the rest of the world stayed home, we gradually resumed normal operations.

Dubai brought back regular economic activity before anyone else, a strategy that protected lives and livelihoods

This interview with CNN gave a real insight into Dubai’s approach to reopening. How the government looked at each sector individually before giving the go-ahead to reopen.

“We look at where we need to tighten and where we can lift restrictions. It’s nothing to do with what anyone tells us because we have a very clear plan”.

Our community is even stronger than we think

It started in Italy when people emerged on their balconies and started cheering support for front line workers. The videos went viral and the movement had a Mexican wave effect across the world. People at home wanted to show support and encourage people on the front line.

In Dubai, 200+ nationalities came together in 2020. I don’t know about you, but during the lockdown, being home alone for the whole day, it was extremely comforting hearing those cheers at night, and knowing your neighbour was right there with you.

Plus, we made the most of being at home. People sharing their isolation diaries gave us smiles in dark times.

Dubai has an incredible infrastructure

COVID-19 test clinics set up countrywide, the capacity to offer results within 24 hours, field hospitals erected across the country prepared to treat high volumes of people if required, and the roll-out of the vaccination highlights the governments rounded efforts to curb the virus while keeping the economy moving.

Dubai. Will. Not. Stop.

A pandemic won’t stop this city’s aim to become the best in the world and my favourite tweet from this year documenting Dubai’s achievements came from @NatashaTurak.

It was around the time Dubai was under the lens with some nasty media attention, and she noted that while other countries are tied up with division and strife, we sent the first Arabs to Mars, brokered a historic peace deal and rolled out one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns.

It couldn’t be more accurate. Despite a tough year, we have had so many positives, and just recently Dubai announced its plans for the next 20 years. The ultimate lesson from 2020 is that Dubai won’t stop, the city is continuously striving for greatness and its attitude to keep moving is inspiring.


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