After much anticipation, Ain Dubai, the largest and tallest observation wheel in the world, opened to the public today.
With the wheel standing 250 metres tall in the backdrop, there was a jubilant atmosphere on Bluewaters Island on Thursday. The day was announced as a UAE holiday to mark the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, so people of all backgrounds gathered to watch the moment the wheel began turning.
Earlier today, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai posted a video of himself to social media riding on top of the wheel as it prepared to open.
The first official ride began at 1.30pm.
Matteo Cesari, 26, a UAE resident from Rome, was among the first to step onto the wheel, having won a competition that included finding a lucky ticket on Bluewaters Island.
“The cabin is impressive, so quiet, really loved it,” he says. “You can see things of Dubai that you wouldn’t be able to see from the rooftop of any building. The whole experience … went by quite fast but was amazing. The quality of the cabin to the details, to the team, it was quite cool.”
His favourite part, he says, is when he got right at the top. “That’s when you get rid of the view of the front cabins and have a clear view … Caesars Palace Bluewaters, Cove Beach, Jebel Ali, JLT, it’s a clear day, it’s amazing. You get a lot, especially right at the top.”
When asked about whether it was important to be among the first to be on the wheel, he pauses. “I think it’s something to take note of in your life … It’s one of the main attractions of Dubai.”
Sajan Antony, 44, is a UAE resident and another of the first to experience the wheel. He told The National he has already experienced the London Eye, the Melbourne Star and the Singapore Flyer, but that this has been his favourite so far.
Being one of the first people on the wheel happened by chance. “We planned to go tomorrow but were able to get a slot today and then it happened to fall on a holiday, too, so it all worked out.”
Antony says they were trying to get an evening slot but it was all booked up. “I think the view will be even better at night.”
Tickets have sold out
A single rotation takes about 38 minutes, during which guests can view Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah from the attraction's 48 cabins. For safety reasons, Ain Dubai has kept a maximum capacity of 10 to 12 people per cabin.
Tickets for the first day were completely sold out, as were tickets for the sunset slot on Friday, says Ron Drake, Ain Dubai's general manager.
“Open both day and night, visitors can experience two very different sides of Dubai – gazing at sunset’s golden rays glittering across the skyscrapers or watching Dubai’s spectacular neon lights switch on as darkness falls. However, I can safely say that so far our most popular spot is without a doubt our sunset slot. This has been sold out for today and tomorrow, and almost completely sold out for the next week,” he says.
“We’ve been blown away by the reaction from customers since tickets went on sale. Many of the products sold out well ahead of today."
To add to the celebratory spirit, an action-packed two-day opening extravaganza is planned for Thursday and Friday at Ain Dubai Plaza, free for all to enjoy. Visitors heading there during the weekend will find family entertainment, activities, 12 food stations and more.
Drake expects more demand in the coming months, coinciding with Dubai’s busy tourist season.
While the observation cabins are popular for those who want to experience the view, Ain Dubai has also launched a variety of packages, from social experiences with VIP treatment to private cabins that can be booked for events such as birthdays or weddings.
“At Ain Dubai, we talk about it being ‘more than just a view’ and what we mean by that is, yes, people come to Ain Dubai for an incredible view, but beyond that Ain Dubai reimagines the observation wheel experience, translating it into a world-class, landmark entertainment venue," says Drake.
“Ain Dubai offers a range of event possibilities for both the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions] market and larger private events … and with Caesars Palace Dubai on Bluewaters next door, we can even help with any accommodation needs. We’ll soon be announcing details of the calendar of events we have planned at Ain Dubai, from National Day to New Year’s Eve."
Ain Dubai is open daily. Prices from Dh130 for adults and Dh100 for children. Details on experiences, packages, parking and more are available here.