Once upon a time Dubai wasn’t the shiny metropolis you see today, it was a sleepy coastal town where everything was laid back, easy going and cheap. Since then a lot has changed, Sheikh Zayed Road got a lot bigger, camels stopped wandering the streets aimlessly and the Toyota building has been painted more times and colours than anyone cares to count.
So, to fuel your nostalgia for the good old days, here are a few things about 90s Dubai that we all miss, at least a little.
1. When Pepsi was cheaper than water
It was once just 50 fils for a can of Pepsi, so take a guess at how we stayed hydrated. At one point you could even buy individual mini cans; the perfect kid sized sugar rush.
2. When AED 50 was more than enough pocket money to last the weekend
Cinema ticket: AED 25
Snacks from the nearest supermarket: AED 20
Throwing popcorn at unsuspecting cinema goers: Priceless
3. When dogs and cars were welcome on the beach
Fridays meant beach days, you’d load up the car with a braai, a cooler of beer for the grownups and caprisuns for the kids, body boards, spades and buckets, chuck in the dog and a few towels and head to the beach. You’d reverse onto the beach, release the hound and set up for a day of sun and sand. The kids would build sandcastles, hunt for snails on the rocks or bodyboard on the pre-Palm waves while the grown ups hid beers in nondescript cooler sleeves and yelled at the dog for shaking sand over the burgers.
4. Turn left at the big tree, then take the second right after the dustbin
Giving directions was an art form, we didn’t have street names – in fact in most neighbourhoods we didn’t have streets. You had to get creative if you wanted someone to find your house and hope that they didn’t mistake the smaller tree further up the road for the big tree.
5. Taking your life in your hands at Wonderland
With dodgy rides and questionable hygiene practices Wonderland was the only water cum theme park in the city for a long time. Be it risking your life on the zipline over the plunge pool or chancing some nasty infections at the foam parties we liked to live life on the edge – as long as our immunisations were up to date.
6. The Sailing Club Wars
Whether you were a member of JASC or DOSC you probably spent your weekends perched on the side of a tiny sail boat. We argued over which club was better and while neither club was all yachts and loafers al l the kids lived off Ribena, we spent hours in the sun and struggled to drag trailers across the sand.
7. Wasting hours and dirhams at the arcade
Namely the arcade in Safa Park, stretching through most of the spaceship-esque building this is where we honed our joystick skills and wasted our silver. From street fighter to claw games the prizes weren’t even close to worth the amount we spent to win them.
8. Rick and Daniel
Mornings will never be the same as when these two ruled the airwaves; pushing the boundaries and keeping us giggling the whole way to school, they were an institution. Plus there was nothing better than going into school have just won Encounter Zone passes!
Which brings me to…
9. Encounter Zone
Or more precisely The Chamber, the origin of so many terrifying rumours – from the guy chasing you with a real chainsaw to the girl who died because she was so scared (there is no credible evidence of either). If you were brave enough to make it through this sh*t your pants house of horror you earned well deserved bragging rights. Those of us less brave took on The Crystal Maze and fought our team mates over who had to put their hand in the blind holes and feel the gross stuffed covered in chewing gum!
10. Coming home from summer holidays
Everything was different when you came home from any holiday, we all went back to school with all these great things we had bought or seen on our travels; we didn’t get all the latest things here, we often had to wait months – sometimes even years – to catch up, so traveling home meant skipping a step.
and a few things we don’t really miss…
Praying that the only free cubical wasn’t a “traditional” toilet
In the olden days every public bathroom had at least one “traditional” loo, or as they are more effectionatly known a “squatty toilet”. While science has proven that they may be better for you than the western variation that doesn’t mean you wanted to use one – plus when you’re too little to reach properly the thought of falling in is all too real.
Trying to keep track of what days the weekend fell on
Is it Thursday – Friday, Friday – Saturday or something else entirely? There were a few years where the country just couldn’t make up it’s mind.
Lying to the carpet man
When the carpet man would pull up outside in his Landcruiser full of handcrafted rugs and that doorbell would ring you knew your mum would be sending you downstairs to tell him she wasn’t home…