From the desk of Frank Kane: tumbleweeds, the three T's and buggies

Focus: The return of a shuttle service and the booming of a club are all signs the economy is on the mend.

The Mina Al Salam hotel in Dubai offers a view of Burj Al Arab. Pawan Singh / The National
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I had dinner with an old pal the other night, a journalist on one of the big British papers whom I've known for a long time.

He's an experienced Dubai hand, having visited the emirate many times over the years, in the boom times and during the crisis. He gets the "feel" of the place pretty well.

"It's coming back, isn't it?" he said as we sat at our dinner table. We were at Pier Chic, the restaurant that juts into the Gulf from the Madinat Jumeirah, and looking around you could see what he meant.

The view back to the shore really was sensational, taking in the lights of the Madinat complex, the sweep of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the gaudy magnificence of the Burj Al Arab. Burj Khalifa rose in the distance like a neon needle. Dubai looked anything other than the down-and-out depicted in many parts of the British press over the past couple of years.

We had a laugh about the eminent British commentator who back in early 2009 predicted there would be tumbleweeds rolling down Sheikh Zayed Road and wild animals roaming the five-star hotels. I hadn't noticed any jackals on my way into Al Qasr that evening.


My friend had completed a whistle-stop tour encompassing many of the executives and companies that represent Dubai's "core" businesses, the three T's, transport, trade and tourism, and he reeled off statistics and examples of the recovery that he certainly feels is under way.

His piece will be published soon, and it looks as though it will be "positive" for the emirate's international image, after a long run of coverage in the western media widely regarded as "negative". What goes around, comes around, as they say.

Speaking of which, there is one small but very definite sign of recovery going around the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) area these days: the Jet buggy is back.

For the past couple of summers, as the financial crisis and recession hit hard, the poor souls who work and play at the DIFC/Jumeirah Emirates Towers (Jet) area had to make the slog from the Gate vicinity to the delights of the hotel and Boulevard area on foot. It can be no more than a couple of hundred metres, but even that short distance in the height of summer was enough to leave you ruddy and perspiring at your next meeting.

And I always felt very vulnerable negotiating the Gate roundabout outside the protective metal shell of a vehicle.


In the boom years, Jumeirah very kindly ran a buggy service between the two destinations, with a golf-cart type of vehicle doing the circuit. It was axed about the time the eminent British journalist was writing about tumbleweeds, and many thought the disappearance of the buggy must be a portent of things to come. But it's good to welcome it back, buzzing between the towers and the Gate in a couple of minutes from early morning to 7.30pm. I am told that when the driver has a break for food or prayer, a hotel BMW is put on standby. Now that is old-fashioned Dubai style.


Another place that is booming is the Habtoor Grand - literally.

The hotel and its beach front near the Marina have long been favourites of mine, a great place to bring the wife and young daughter on Friday afternoons for a swim and some beachcombing.

It was safe and relaxed, with a busy swimming pool area counterbalanced by lovely lawns nearer the sea. We've spent many hours there lying under a palm tree as the sun went down over the Gulf, watching the peacocks parade.

No more. The hotel has decided to build a beach club right beside the lawn area. It kicks off on Friday afternoon for a session lasting until 3am the next day.

Now I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but I much preferred the gentle clucking of the peacocks to the violently loud rap music that hammers out from the XL Club, and I was certainly more relaxed by them than by the exotic creatures who now parade across the Habtoor lawns.