Modesh at 25: how the Dubai Summer Surprises mascot has evolved

Like the city itself, the character has undergone a dramatic transformation, though his charm will never change

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A quarter of a century ago, Dubai Summer Surprises’ mascot sprang — quite literally — to life as a bright yellow beam of sunshine.

Originally conceived as a jack-in-the-box, Modesh was created by late Filipino artist and architect Romulo "Romy" Miclat specifically for the event. His initial design was an elusive cross between a sun and an accordion, with seven hairs said to represent the seven emirates.

During the Dubai Summer Surprises, which winds down this weekend, Modesh moves from his home in the Dubai Mangroves Forest to the Dubai World Trade Centre’s storied pop-up entertainment centre, Modesh World. There, he encourages children to spend their summers having fun and learning.

Although Miclat passed away in 2018, his most famous creation lives on; going from strength to strength every year.

Today, he embodies Dubai’s values of compassion, cherishing loved ones, hospitality and protecting heritage, which he says are central tenets of Emirati culture.

Like his birth city, Modesh, whose name means "amazing" in Arabic and has itself changed from Modhesh, has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past two-and-a-half decades. Not only has he well and truly jumped out of his box, he has developed into a walking, talking CGI Pixar-style cartoon character.

In 2015, Modesh welcomed acclaimed singer Nancy Ajram to his World — where she performed a set of children's songs. Most recently, Modesh and his friend Dana have stepped into the limelight, with their first music video, in which they implore listeners to sing along as they traverse Dubai’s most notable landmarks.

The animated video begins with the duo leaping out of a Modesh-branded propeller plane with parachutes. The two skydive over the Palm Dubai, soaking in views of the sea before landing on the beach, with Burj Al Arab in the background.

They go on to explore some of the city's most famous landmarks, marvelling at views of Burj Khalifa through the Dubai Frame, strolling past a dhow and cycling through City Walk.

As the sun sets, with Burj Khalifa in the distance, the pair pass through their home, Dubai Mangroves Forest, where flamingos fly overhead and ducks float past below. The video reaches a dramatic crescendo, with a fireworks display over the city’s storied skyline.

With summer winding down and children back at school, Modesh and Dana are set to return home to the mangroves. Whether they will emerge next year with a dramatic new look, only time will tell.

Scroll through more images of the last 25 years of DSS below

Updated: September 02, 2022, 6:01 PM