8 things UAE residents can look forward to right now

The country is over the worst of the pandemic, and springing back to life

March 1, 2014 (Abu Dhabi) Visitor enjoy the last of the Qasr al Hosn festival in Abu Dhabi March 1, 2014.  (Sammy Dallal / The National)

The autumn shadows are growing longer, air temperatures are getting cooler and humidity levels are dropping. In Abu Dhabi, there is even some rain in the air. Something else is happening, too. Beyond the changing of the seasons, confidence is back, driven by the country’s robust response to the pandemic.

Here are eight more reasons to be optimistic about the UAE’s today and tomorrow.

First, Covid-19 cases are down. The rolling seven-day average of new infections in the UAE is around 70 per day and has been that way for a while. The trend since the summer has been steeply downwards and, generally, outcomes are better, too. All private hospitals in Abu Dhabi were declared Covid-free earlier this month.

It has been a long road to travel since the first shelter-at-home orders were put in place early last year, but the country’s measured policy, commitment to testing and vaccination and its crisis preparedness have deservedly reaped rewards and got the country moving once again.

There is no room for complacency, of course, but the signs are good and it is no surprise the UAE ranks so highly, currently 3rd, in the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking, which rates the world’s top 53 economies in a league table. Only Ireland and Spain currently rank higher.

More generally, the economy is bouncing back strongly after the worst of the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, said that the UAE is in a "strong position" once more. The government spent billions to support and stimulate business during the pandemic and the signs are that the worst is behind us and the economy appears geared for growth once more. Data suggest the economy will grow by 2.1 per cent this year and by 4.2 per cent next.

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Data suggest the economy will grow by 2.1 per cent this year

Travel is opening up, too. This week, Abu Dhabi updated its Green List, adding 13 more countries and extending its coverage to 95 destinations.

The pandemic’s restrictions of movement orders exerted a heavy toll on many people. From a personal perspective, there are some close family relatives I haven’t seen for two years outside of regular catch-ups on Zoom.

The extended travel list, the general alignment of travel protocols and the easing of restrictions for vaccinated travellers around the world, mean the long wait to be reunited with family and friends is coming to an end and, more generally, the ability for all of us to move around the world more freely is upon us.

The once in a lifetime treat that is Expo 2020 Dubai still has another four and a half months to run. Not all of us will make it to all 192 pavilions before the site closes for the final time next year, as one enthusiast managed to do this month in a frenetic 72-hour period, but the world’s fair has so much to offer and we still have plenty of days left to take in what’s on offer.

The cultural calendar looks packed. Abu Dhabi Art is back next week with 50 galleries exhibiting. Louvre Abu Dhabi, which celebrates its fourth anniversary this month, has a season of exhibitions to feast on, including a National Day themed exhibit. Sharjah International Book Fair, the world’s biggest book fair, still has days to run. Al Hosn Festival, the cultural event staged in the majestic surroundings of Qasr Al Hosn, will soon be upon us. So, too, will the Mother of the Nation Festival. The Cultural Foundation has a fascinating show on until next year. Dubai’s ever-engaging art scene and season are in full flow.

The UAE turns 50 next month, and the official golden jubilee event will be staged in Hatta, offering another reason to celebrate. The country’s story is a unique one, full of moments of complex challenges. This is a time to reflect upon the courage, belief and sense of purpose that has been evident throughout those five decades.

This winter will serve up a sporting calendar to savour, too. The annual horse racing season began last weekend, the T20 Cricket World Cup, which has been so competently staged by the UAE on short notice, may be almost at an end, but the chaotic big-hitting of the Abu Dhabi T10 is still to come, featuring many of those same world-class players.

The curtain will fall on the F1 season next month at the remodelled Yas Marina Circuit, in what promises to be a thrilling duel at dusk for the title between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. The Dubai Sevens rugby will roar back into life within weeks. Next year, Abu Dhabi hosts football’s Club World Cup once more. The golf tour returns and will make an additional stop in Ras Al Khaimah this season and some of the world’s best tennis players will soon be in competition on these shores. Abu Dhabi has just been named a Bike City.

On top of that, a host of new attractions are opening up around the country, ready to welcome visitors, from Ain Dubai to the National Aquarium.

We all thought and hoped at the beginning of 2021 that better days were ahead after the shock of the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. It has taken a while, but that more optimistic moment has definitely arrived.

Published: November 11th 2021, 4:00 AM
Nick March

Nick March

Nick is one of The National’s assistant editors-in-chief. He was previously Comment Editor and editor of The Review section, the paper’s weekly politics and culture supplement. He has been on staff since 2008 and is a regular columnist. He is also the author of a book chronicling the history of one of Abu Dhabi’s older schools.