Dubai Holidays as President Bush Drops in

Source : Gulf Today

Dubai holidays as Bush drops in

Dubai - Jan 15: DUBAI stood still, and its roads empty, in perhaps the most unique way of receiving a visiting head of state when US President George W. Bush zipped in and out of the city for a day-long visit on Monday.

With almost the entire business district barricaded to secure the motorway of Bush, security agencies took control of the area that stayed out of bounds for the general public.

And when the heavyweight visit of the head of the world's biggest democracy began, there were no people anywhere around. Not even for the customary waving of the two countries' flags to greet the president's motorcade. Obviously acting on strict instructions from the US president's security team, local police personnel ensured that no vehicle passed any of the barricades. All points across Dubai Creek remained closed, and the area sterilised as per security requirements.

Traffic policemen donning wind cheaters, to tame the chill on a windy day when temperature stood around 20 degrees Celcius, stayed put guarding their posts to ensure motorists stayed away. The roads were blocked with steel barricades or patrol cars.

Scores of companies that work from Dubai, many of them American, remained closed for the day and Sheikh Zayed Road, perhaps among the world's busiest of roads, stood as clear and mute as bushwhacked woods. Access allowed only for emergency services like ambulances, besides the security teams on duty, the entire stretch from Dubai International airport to Al Barsha, beyond Burj Al Arab where Bush attended a meeting with young business leaders, stayed clear for the presidential drive past.

One expatriate driver said he saw police closing access to Maktoum Bridge as early as 5am on Monday. Other than the set of diversions announced by the Roads and Transport Authority on Sunday evening, no roads were open. With most of the roads free of any traffic, some even risked travelling to the Jebel Ali free zone area. But only to find traffic at a standstill some 15 kilometres short of Sheikh Zayed Road from Ras Al Khor and Al Khawaneej.

Men in civil clothes and unmarked cars were seen guiding Dubai Police personnel on diverting the incoming vehicular traffic. They made sure none got into the "no go" zone.

Forced into a mid-week holiday to literally clear the way for the visiting US president and his motorcade that moves in a high-security huddle, some residents said they could not even visit the neighbourhood super markets. One expatriate woman who stepped out of her flat in Al Ghusais said she, along with other shoppers at a local supermarket, were asked to return to their homes by beat policemen in the area. "For a moment I was scared; but then I realised it must be due to the visit of Bush," she said.

With Bush on his latest leg of his Middle East tour, people like her had to stay indoors till the Air Force One Boeing 747, his workplace in air, took off for Saudi Arabia and the roadblocks removed.

Another interesting factor of the Bush visit was that none had any clue about the places he was scheduled to visit. "I heard he's visiting Madinat Jumeirah," said Indian national Gopikrishna Bhatt who thought it would be a good thing for Dubai's exclusive retail destination. But since there was no official word, he was unsure if the US president would do any sightseeing and enjoy the cool outdoors of this desert city.

But Dubai residents made the best of the unexpected holiday by waking up late and breaking for siestas as Bush went around the city's famed landmarks like Bastakia, and Burj Al Arab before emplaning for Saudi Arabia.

Ambulances turn taxis

CLOSED roads and suspended taxi service forced the fleet of ambulances with Dubai Unified Ambulance Centre to step into the shoes of taxis on Monday.

Head of Technical Operations at Dubai Unified Ambulance Services Jemila Al Zaabi told The Gulf Today that the ambulances attended to a couple of emergency cases in which they shifted pregnant women to hospitals.

"A woman near Safa Park had gone into labour and her husband was very panicky as he couldn't get a taxi. We managed to take her to Al Wasl Hospital," she said.

Another woman, who was seven months pregnant, called the ambulance from Jumeira Hotel. She was shifted to Modern Hospital for her appointment with a doctor there.

"Otherwise, we were doing the job of taxis today. Our director had already asked to extend full support to the public as many people were stuck without taxis due to closed roads. Some people who called us, said sorry for seeking help for just transporting them to hospitals," the official said.

Though she could not provide exact number of people who sought the assistance of ambulances, Zaabi said almost all the ambulances on the roads were serving the public.

On Monday, a fleet of 60 ambulances including two Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances (MICA), motorbikes and stress responders were in full swing on Dubai roads.

In addition to these, 11 more ambulances were deployed on the routes through which the US President George W. Bush and his entourage passed.

Officials said ambulances had only minor problems because of the closure of main roads as Dubai Police had given them alternative routes to access hospitals.

The police also allowed a private hospital's ambulance to pass through Sheikh Zayed Road. A source in Welcare Hospital said an ambulance was sent to Meadows after a man living there complained of chest pain. 


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