I am lost. I walk, in a daze, looking for a recognisable face. Everyone I walk past is either speaking a foreign language, snapping a picture or is tucking into froyo, as am I. I am surrounded by flowers.
Every nook and cranny is bedecked with blooms so rich and full, I can't help but think of how long it must have taken to put this all together and keep it fresh.
I am fully inside a cornucopia of flowers and I fully allow myself to be in the moment. The giant floating ladies slowly whirl around, each one showcasing a different arrangement, almost giving you a direction of how the garden should be explored.
As I walked around, marvelling at the beauty of the place, I bumped into a young couple of Indian descent,which ended up with me taking a couple of pictures of them. It is then that I realise a lot of people are here either on honeymoon or on anniversary trips.
An elderly couple of Israeli descent are also walking hand-in-hand. They see me taking a selfie and they offer to help and I end up with some brilliant images.
And then I spotted it. A flower decked Emirates Airbus A380 that everyone is gazing at in awe. I also stop, a bit stupefied at what is in front of me. What in horticultural excellence is this? Is it a model of the plane or an actual plane, but festooned with the vivid blooms?
I quickly forgot that I was lost and my companions were probably looking for me. I quickly finish my froyo, wipe my phone camera lens, ready my monopod and start imagining how a travel magazine show host would describe the splendour all around them.
I guess you are wondering where I am right? Allow me to introduce you to a wonderland, the Dubai Miracle Garden.
Opened in 2013 on Valentine’s Day, the 72 000-sq m garden has more than 50 million flowers in full bloom. It is the world’s largest garden and was the creation of Abdel Nasser Rahhal.
It’s a vision of beauty, thanks to the impressive line-up of famous buildings and structures completely transformed into colourful flower displays. There’s a moat around the garden,ensuring the flowers have enough water, while acting as a decorative feature.
The garden is only operational during the colder months. As the weather begins to cool at the onset of winter, the gates reopen for visitors.
Walking in, it felt like I was in Disneyland. There's the same feeling of being in a wonderland, where nothing but beautiful things exist. Plus there were a number of Disney characters in the garden.
Even with all the beautiful structures, works of living art really, like the giant grass elephants and horses, that have been designed to take in as many florals as possible, Covid-19 loomed, giving one a reality check.
From signs reminding you to social distance, to sanitise and to keep your mask on, to the intercom announcing every 10 minutes in different languages, reminding us to follow all the Covid-19 protocols.
Seeing the Emirates jet was no surprise. But seeing the plane literally in full bloom was impressive. The garden teamed up with Emirates for the centrepiece, resulting in the jet being covered in more than 500 000 fresh flowers and living plants.
Emirates airline is second only to the Burj Khalifa as the most recognisable symbol of Dubai. The carrier has managed to become one of the most popular in the world of aviation.
During the vaccineless days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the time of my trip, the airline had a special Covid-19 medical expense if you were diagnosed with Covid-19 during your trip to Dubai. The free, global cover was effective for customers flying on the airline until late 2020 and was valid for 31 days from your departure date.
In December, we spoke to Badr Abbas, the airline’s senior vice-president for commercial operations in Africa about the measures they took to make sure that travellers using the airline during the pandemic were safe.
“Emirates has been working closely with local and international authorities to responsibly and gradually resume operations by making the health and safety of our customers a top priority," he said at the time.
“We have also redesigned every step of the customer journey. We have really tried to make it as safe as possible, and this includes us introducing the airline industry’s first travel insurance, in addition to the Covid-9 insurance, at no cost to the passenger.”
And now with the Expo 2020, the city is about to have it's biggest showcase, one that will likely outdo the splendour of the Miracle Gardens.
From this October 01, 2021 until March 31, 2022, Dubai is hosting the Expo 2020 Dubai which is a showcase that will have people reimagine what the future will look like.
Initially planned to take place in 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, Expo 2020 is expected to be the biggest cultural gathering in the world, presenting a visually-striking and inspiring 182 days, as more than 200 participants and millions of visitors create the largest and most diverse World Expo.
During the expo, Dubai will become the world showcase in which participating countries will present to the world their best ideas, projects, and examples of their innovative models in the field of tangible and intangible infrastructure focusing on the themes of the Universal Exhibition.
After more than seven months of South Africans not being able to fly to Dubai, borders finally opened to fully vaccinated travellers to the city on August 30. The airline announced that it will be expanding its operations in and out of South Africa, boosting its schedule to 28 weekly flights by this month. Emirates is the premier partner and official airline of Expo 2020 Dubai.
The ramp up in operations will see double daily flights to Joburg, including the introduction of Emirates’ A380 on one of the daily flights, in addition to daily services to both Cape Town and Durban. The new frequencies and capacity increases across all of the airline’s gateways in South Africa are effective from October 31 2021.
Adnan Kazim, Emirates chief commercial Officer said: “Dubai truly has something for everyone and this winter, as our home city hosts Expo 2020, the excitement and range of attractions for visitors will ratchet up, including various once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We (have) announced that we’ll give a free Expo day pass to every Emirates customer travelling to Dubai during the expo period."
So, if you are travelling for the expo, do find sometime to explore the Dubai Miracle Gardens. Either for the romantic or for the child in you. Either way, the beauty will leave you fully entranced. I sure was.
* Buhle Mbonambi was a guest of Emirates.