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How to manage a city: Lessons from Dubai

By Elizabeth Mulae | January 19th 2017
Members of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya tour Palm Jumeira project in Dubai.

Two months ago, I accompanied 40 members of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya to Dubai on a bench-marking and real estate trip. What we saw was a big eye-opener.

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has positioned itself as the world’s real estate tourist attraction, shopping and holiday destination. Thousands of people from all over the world visit this country that was once a desert to witness its transformation.

The team visited some of the iconic real estate developments and landmarks in Dubai, which include Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; the Free Zone Area, which is the industrial area of Dubai; Palm Jumeira, a government flagship project; AL Saadiyat Island and the great Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. Here are some of the lessons we learnt and which could be applied locally.

Real estate tourism

Dubai has constructed iconic buildings whose designs attract thousands of tourists who come to view and experience modern architecture and style. In Kenya, we are gradually noting a new class of style and designs in property development mostly in Upper Hill, Nairobi.

The Kenyatta International Convention Centre is no longer the only iconic building in Kenya; there is more creativity in designs, which should be encouraged.

Great planning

All government offices, institutions of higher learning, hospitals and industrial area are in one area — arranged one after the other. All hospitals from eye specialists to dentists to psychiatry and counselling are in one location. This kind of planning ensures easy navigation.

As the Nairobi city grows and expands to the metropolitan area and counties, we should critically think about the aspect of planning

Twenty-four-hour economy

In Dubai, you can shop until you drop. The massive malls, stocked with high quality goods and boasting superior services, offer the best deals amidst stiff competition.

You can go into a mall at around 7pm and shop until 3am. With the development of malls like Garden City, TRM, The Hub, Two Rivers and the expansion of supermarkets chains like Nakumatt, Naivas and Tuskys, Kenya needs to start thinking about embracing a 24-hour economy.

This will help solve issue of non-employment, traffic jams and mall congestion.

Architectural creativity

There is a sense of creativity, style and symmetry in all the buildings you come across in Dubai. The designs are a mixture of both international and local architectural minds.

The University of Nairobi’s school of architecture should plan trips to Dubai and other countries with a history of great building designs to expose students’ to the works of other professionals in their field.

High-tech infrastructure

Dubai’s road network, airline and metro trans train are high-tech and functional. The highways are well-built and maintained with functional zebra crossings. There are also rails for metro trans trains that cut across in certain areas. The motorists are also well-mannered and always obey traffic lights and rules. Maybe the Kenya police traffic department should pay a visit Dubai and learn how traffic can be managed without a police officer on site. Most of the vehicles on the road are relatively new and rarely will you see a vehicle discharging fumes. In Dubai, it is against the law to drive a vehicle that is not well-serviced.

Functioning public transport

Kenya has always dreamt of having a functional public transport system that minimises the heavy traffic jams seen in urban cities like Nairobi every morning and evening.

Dubai’s public transport is supported by air-conditioned buses that stand at designated stages for passengers to alight or board. Metro trans trains also ferry passengers from one centre to another. With the construction of the SGR and the arrival of the six metro trains last week, we are headed in the right direction.

Endorsement of national property development by government

The massive property development in Dubai has been due to the enormous support from the government. The Nakheel Offices, which is a government agency, is currently developing several projects, including the Palm Jumeeira, which is designed like a palm tree and is built from land that has been reclaimed from the ocean.

Spectacular landscapes in the city

Dubai has more spectacular and well-manicured gardens than Nairobi. The gardens are watered by desalinated water from the sea’s salty water. Nairobi is lucky to have a river that cuts across the city centre. Why can’t we take advantage of the water and make our city more green, fresher and beautiful?

Functional water recycling systems

All the water used for sanitary needs in the hotels, malls and other public facilities is recycled and desalinated from the ocean. Dubai has great recycling and treatment plants that ensure all the facilities have enough water.

We need to take advantage of rain water by investing in good water harvesting systems to make water rationing a thing of the past. We can also install water treatment and recycling plants to save this rare commodity.

Waste management efficiency

Strict dumping of waste rules have kept the city clean. Spitting and dumping waste in public spaces is punishable by law.

There are cameras everywhere which act as a silent observer and dustbins are placed strategically.

Dubai’s night life

Dubai has an active at night life. More families can be seen at night with their children having fun at various recreational facilities.

This is the time all the eateries, malls and supermarkets are full.

- The writer is the PR communication officer at the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya.

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