I spent the last two days in Dubai. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience. Lots to learn and see. The history of Dubai from a small harbour village at the beginning of the 19th century to a metropolis of the 21st century is impressive. I like the old town, what’s left of it, the small shops, the dhows heavy-laden with goods that still look like their medieval counterparts, just without mast and sail.

Out of professional interest *cough* I also paid the SEGA Republic indoor theme park in the Dubai Mall a visit. (I don’t have any pictures of that.)


SEGA Republic is more of a games arcade with a few fun rides than a themepark. They have one rollercoaster there which has a ride duration of around 1 minute, also a few spinning rides and of course simulators. It also had an interesting surprise for me in store.

After loading up a card with a small amount of 20 Dirrha (roughly 4 Euros) – which gave me 17 “virtual” Dirrha to spend on machines – I went to a small machine, a mix of ball game and horse-racing. This machine, to my surprise, let me win three times out of three with no effort, each time dispensing 10 “tickets” for the win, while my virtual Dirrhas were going down by five every time. A game machine that seemingly let me win every time, but didn’t pay out the win? What was going on here?

Confused I went to a desk where you could exchange tickets for prizes. The friendly staff helpfully explained to me that the tickets did not equal virtual Dirrha and could not be used on any of the other machines, they could just be exchanged for prizes, like candy and stuffed teddy bears. I suspect the following reason for this: It makes gambling (winning anything worth money) impossible.

This, me thinks, removes one very important part of a games arcade experience: the part of being able to take your win from one machine to another. No way to entertain yourself with just a few coins/tokens and later be proud of how far you got with what you had at the start. In that way SEGA republic is actually again more like a theme park than a traditional games arcade.

A few other random observations from my stay at Dubai:

The Dubai Museum is worth seeing. It is quite a bit bigger than what it looks like from outside as it has an underground part. A bit slim on information and heavy on showy displays with lots of puppets.

The fountain show at the Dubai Mall is best watched from the balcony of one of the restaurants. There is a show at around midday which is much less crowded and just as impressive as the one in the evening.

The Japanese style fast food I had at Dubai Mall was horrible, the worst I ever tried. On balance the Thai Express in the departure area of the airport was both surprisingly cheap and really good, if you don’t mind the styrofoam plates.