DUBAI: The 18th Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) brought in a flavor of the South-East in the form of their favourite transport - the ‘tuk-tuk’.
This was made possible with the efforts of two enterprising young Emiratis, Majid Abbas and Fadel. The tuk-tuk, they believed, would give an exotic eastern feel to the otherwise glitzy Dubai. Visitors enjoyed a quick ride in a simple, cute-looking, three-wheeled vehicle, emitting rhythmic high-pitched rattles in its exhaust note, which has earned it the nomenclature it goes by.
Ubiquitous on the roads of places such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, China and mainly India - where it is known by its original name of ‘rickshaw’ - the ‘tuk-tuk’ started life as a basic, cheap, three-wheeled public transport in the former British colonies in Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore and the Indian subcontinent.
Back then it utilised human pedal power instead of horsepower, but the advent of the internal combustion engine changed all that.
In Dubai, this fun mode of transport has been used for the first time by the two brothers during this DSF to take people from the parking lot near the Festival City Mall to the Dubai International Comedy Carnival and other events held at the Dubai Festival City grounds, which is a focal point for the Italian Circus, carnival and fun fair activities during DSF 2013.
Majid and Fadel come from a family which is no stranger to bringing innovative events and ideas to Dubai. Their father owns Park Leisure, the company that is responsible for the DSF Fun Fairs in parks all over Dubai, such as at the Creek Park, Al Riqqa Street and the Festival Promenade.
The company was launched in 1988 and has been associated with the DSF for 18 years, the brothers said. They added that the company takes its work of providing joy to residents and visitors very seriously, especially in the safety aspects.
However, instead of sitting back and managing the family business, the brothers wanted to venture out on their own and bring in something new to Dubai. Majid came up with the idea of bringing the ‘tuk-tuks’ down to the city and his brother Fadel joined him in managing the project.
“They(the tuk-tuks) have proved to be the most enjoyable rides for children. We have seen that kids seem to love riding these little vehicles the most. The tuk-tuks have grabbed the attention of a huge number of people visiting the DSF events in the Dubai Festival City area,” said Majid
Fadel added, “People of different nationalities, especially Europeans, have been very keen to try a tuk-tuk ride. We initially charged a fee of Dhs10 but then we cancelled it and made the ride free during the Dubai International Comedy Carnival to transport people to the event’s stage. Not only did it counter people’s hesitation of walking all the way to the venue but it also set a humorous stage for the comedy shows because everyone smiles and laughs when they ride a tuk-tuk. The vehicles are so cheerful that you cannot help it.”
Speaking about the business aspect of things, Majid said, “There are two sides to this project. From the economic angle, we take it as something that allows us to have our own little means of income and also a way to give employment to a few people. Besides, such private projects encourage you to think creatively and innovatively, which in turn helps the community as a whole to improve. The second side is that of tourism - the tuk-tuks were definitely a tourist attraction at the Dubai Festival City area and can be a great addition to Dubai’s tourism scene.”
He added that the DSF has been the main element behind the success of their project and such events in Dubai give the city an economic boost as well as help people like them to come out with new ideas and introduce innovative features.
Speaking about their future plans, Fadel said, “We have been encouraged enough by the results of our project during this DSF to want to expand further. We would like to offer tuk-tuk transport in other tourist and fun areas of Dubai, such as the The Dubai Mall area, the Heritage Village, the Global Village and the Jumeirah Beach Residence area. The safety of our tuk-tuk users is our biggest responsibility and we are keen to keep up our 100 per cent safety record even as we would like to operate our tuk-tuks all round the year, and not only during the festivals.”
“We have used two kinds of tuk-tuk models — the four-passenger one and the larger 16-seaters. We carried out daily inspections on them to ensure the best safety standards, which we felt we were obliged to offer along with the fun of something that brought a little bit of the Orient to a small patch of Dubai,” he added.