TOURISM Dubai's Metropolitan Hotel moving ahead with the times
The Metropolitan Hotel will give way to a magnificent complex to meet demands of the industry
Dubai: Khalaf Al Habtoor, the veteran UAE businessman, is full of emotion when talking about demolishing the Metropolitan Complex — one of the city's oldest hotel properties.
Although he is building a new project that will fit well with the new ambience of the high-rise neighbourhood, he is sad and feels nostalgic about the whole thing.
"The Metropolitan Hotel is our first hospitality venture and it is filled with great memories, but I always believe in looking forward," Al Habtoor said.
"It is not easy to demolish this symbolic building, it is part of me, but I find myself confronted with two choices: either we grow with the country or remain static. So we chose to grow with the country.
"But I know that we will be bringing back the old outlets to the new property. So, instead of the Metropolitan being an old landmark of Dubai, it will bring a different landmark now.
"The tourism industry in the UAE and Dubai is constantly growing, and we have to be prepared to cater for the growing need of its visitors and residents alike."
Like a dream
Al Habtoor believed that it is possible to demolish a building but the great memories and sentiments related to the place can't be deleted. "It sticks inside you for ever," he said.
The Metropolitan, a 34-year-old hotel, is to be demolished to make way for a extravagant hospitality complex and a Las Vegas-style theatre under the name of Al Habtoor Palace valued at Dh4.87 billion.
Al Habtoor said it felt like a dream when the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, granted him the land to build his first hotel.
"My best memories at the hotel are all related to Shaikh Rashid. I still remember when he called me very early in the morning, my wife answered the phone to awake me telling that Shaikh Rashid was on the phone," he quips.
"So I immediately got up and drank some water and answered the phone, trying to sound awake. Immediately Shaikh Rashid knew that I was asleep and he said: "You are sleeping! Get ready and come to me! I have something to show you!"
Al Habtoor continued: "It was then that he gave me the land which allowed me to build my first hotel, which was a dream."
Shaikh Rashid and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid, now Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, attended the opening ceremony of the hotel.
It stood on a large deserted area by Shaikh Zayed Road, with nothing but sand dunes around it. So, during the opening of the hotel, Shaikh Rashid looked around, laughed and said: "Khalaf's hotel is like a donkey that is tied to tree in a salty dry land," a land where nothing can live."
Al Habtoor added: "Of course he was joking, but Shaikh Rashid had a great vision for Dubai and knew that this area was strategic and had a great potential and that is why he gave me that land."
Pointing to the drastic changes that took place in Dubai, he said: "Our customers, especially those who used to come to the Red Lion, had to pull their cars out of the sand, either to enter the place or to go home. It was a daily struggle for everyone, and thinking about this makes me think to where we were and where we are now.
"This place represents everything that I have gone through in my journey. It was really difficult to make it succeed at first, and it was a burden on my shoulders at first, just to keep it open and running. And nothing has been easy in anything we had to do to grow, but God is always great and generous, and compensated for all the hard work in the later days," Al Habtoor said.
"To me, this represents the future, and what these three international luxury brands' upcoming hotels will bring, and how they will be the gate of Dubai."
Al Habtoor Palace: Mixed-use property
Al Habtoor Group is building a mixed-use property that will host three international luxury hotels and a Las Vegas-style theatre under the name of Al Habtoor Palace valued at Dh4.87 billion.
The three hotels will hold 1,616 rooms, 50,000 square feet of banqueting and meeting space, a 1,000-seat broadway-style theatre, complete with water fountains and a moving stage, a 400,000 square foot landscaped garden, and a sports academy with 12 tennis courts.
The hotel complex will hold around 20 restaurants, cafes and bars.
It will have a theatre that will hold a water show with a moving stage and 150 actors and dancers.
The construction will commence in June and be completed in October 2015.
New project: Eye on future
Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman of Al Habtoor Group, said the new Dh4.8 billion project is in line with the changes of time.
"This is a very important piece of land and the new project will help us build a new future. This will cater to a larger number of tourists and help reinforce Dubai's reputation as a major tourism hub," Al Habtoor said in an emotional address marking the end of the Metropolitan Hotel.