I was one of the Museum of the Future's first visitors - this is what it's like

The new landmark was officially inaugurated by on Tuesday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai

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At the Museum of the Future, not only will you see the impressive trajectory of the UAE, you will actually taste it.

That happens through the flavour of rich and expertly brewed coffee.

When entering the stunning venue near Dubai International Finance Centre, off Sheikh Zayed Road, you will find a cosy in-house cafe on the right.

There is no staff nor physical menu. Instead, a robot barista is on hand to make your favourite cuppa after ordering and paying via your mobile phone.

The flat whites are note-perfect, with a deft balance of milk and rich coffee that may elude mere mortals.

“It’s all about consistency,” says Wayne Oberholzer, of Dubai’s Nightjar Coffee Roaster. “I don’t think the days of the barista are numbered, but robots will augment what they do and they will maintain that quality at all hours of the day in various environments.”

If the caffeine doesn’t perk you up, the assortment of penguins and octopuses flying around the spacious white lobby will.

A drone of a octopus at the Museum of the Future which opened in Dubai on the 22nd of February. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The drones, powered by blue track-suited men in hidden corners, glide and pirouette in front of a series of capsule elevators silently zooming up and down the museum’s seven floors, almost kissing the walls adorned with engravings of Vice President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's poetry.

Admire these and then move on to collect your pre-booked tickets at one of the many self-service kiosks.

Then your voyage to 2071 begins, at the Journey of the Pioneers, one of the museum’s five zones.

A dark room is lit by the video display of Aya, an Emirati virtual guide who ushers visitors into a nearby shuttle for their journey to outer space, to visit the UAE’s Orbiting Space Station.

We are already in 2071, she explains, so the station (currently in its research and development stage) has already launched and is safely transmitting data to the UAE Space Agency 600 kilometres above the Earth’s atmosphere.

Aya is a digital guide of The Museum of the Future. Chris Whiteoak / The National

That sense of the future is enhanced by the windows of the shuttle, which shows us soaring above a 2071 Dubai skyline marked by impossible, twisting skyscrapers and serene waterways.

At the space station, a series of ethereal rooms are home to various exhibits ranging from space helmets to “asteroid water” presently being developed by international space agencies. Visitors can apply for a job at the recruitment centre at a digital kiosk.

Journalist Saeed Saeed in his future role as an Asteroid Fleet Pilot. Photo: Saeed Saeed

My skills were deemed suitable for the role of an Asteroid Fleet Pilot and the zone’s human guide, Somaya Raja, explained I will “command” my own vehicle for “important missions”.

“So basically, I am a courier?” I ask. “No, no,” she assured me. “This is an important role.”

I descend back to Earth on the shuttle and visit the Heal Institute, a research centre focused on preserving the planet's ecosystem through the use of the latest AI and biotechnology.

This is where arguably the museum’s most stunning feature lies: The Library. It is home to digital representations of more than 2,000 DNA samples of living and extinct animals, vegetables and fauna.

Each item is displayed on neon-lit glass cases with information on its history accessed through a “bio-synth”, a gadget used by guides resembling a mini iPad.

The Library in the Museum of The Future. AFP

It is at the Heal Institute where you will also see a clear representation of what Dubai will look like 50 years from now.

The digital display shows an urban landscape where skyscrapers and buildings are expertly intertwined with green spaces.

Residents stroll spacious white piazzas while the skies are home to hundreds of zooming drones.

Interestingly, Sheikh Zayed Road exhibits smooth traffic uncharacteristic for the middle of the working day.

“That’s because a lot of deliveries and courier services are done by these drones,” says our tour guide.

“There will also be Hyperloop so transportation by then will be easy and very accessible.”

A look at Dubai's future. Chris Whiteoak / The National

It is that blend of optimism and concern for the planet that should ultimately prevent the Museum of the Future from becoming merely a curiosity.

A haven for science and culture lovers, as well as tourists, it stands as a majestic example of what the UAE will no doubt accomplish over the next 50 years, promising the best is yet to come.

More information is available at museumofthefuture.ae

Updated: February 23, 2022, 4:52 PM
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