DUBAI: Just as the UAE celebrates its 40 years, so too does another landmark that's rocked our lives over the past four decades: Hard Rock Cafe. It's a global phenomenon that vanished from the Dubai skyline for three years.
But it's back now, bigger and better than ever. With its guiding philosophy of ‘Love All, Serve All', the city's premiere rock restaurant re-opened its doors, albeit minus its signature guitars outside, at Dubai Festival City on Friday.
The all-new three-level Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) sees a return not only of a rock institution, but a resurgence of rockers flocking to the venue. In its glory days, HRC was the only place to be for any self-respecting music aficionado.
Today, the restaurant and live-music venue hopes to recapture its former glory by bringing back favourites such as the Rock Shop, the ever-popular menu, and, of course, the celebrity memorabilia.
From Aerosmith's autographed Harley Davidson to Rolling Stones' Keith Richard's 1967 autographed guitar, Madonna's hat, George Michael's notorious boots and Michael Jackson's jacket, the walls of the café are lined with rock memories that remain immortal.
"When Michael Jackson was in Dubai in 2005, he popped over to the old Hard Rock Cafe (on Shaikh Zayed Road) for a quick lunch," says General Manager John Hall. "Halfway through his meal, he asked us to bring in his shoes, which were on display at the restaurant. He looked at them carefully and said, ‘Yeah, they're mine. Could you bring me a marker please?' He then re-signed his name and ‘Dubai' on them, and gave them back to us to display." Those shoes, along with the King of Pop's jacket and hat, are now on display at the café. While to a layman it's not that big a deal, to a Hard Rocker it's memorabilia such as this that make the café the iconic entertainment venue it is.
Fans come a-rolling
"We have fans coming in who've visited 100 other Hard Rocks in the world, looking for that one collector's item that they haven't found elsewhere," says Bianca Cartin, Hard Rock's PR, Sales and Marketing Manager.
"Last week we had a Swiss gentleman who's a die-hard pin collector, having purchased souvenirs from over 200 cities. He heard we had just opened and wanted to lay his hands on one of the early Hard Rock Cafe Dubai pins," says Hall.
Collectors such as him aren't a rarity in the world of Hard Rock. "Pins are amongst the most popular things to collect," explains Cartin. "There are even Pin Conventions held around the world where collectors can exchange their souvenirs."
But it's not just the rock addicts that frequent the café.
The Hard Rock lifestyle has become synonymous with the world of music, with the rock 'n' roll culture. Music lovers the world over hop in to dine on rock legends' favourite dishes, while listening to their favourite tunes, submerged in a world away from their corporate blue-tie one.
Aerosmith fans take pride in ordering the band's favourite dessert: chocolate cake; Michael Jackson's fans follow in his footsteps by ordering his Dubai meal: Chicken sandwich and BB Wings; Victoria Beckham's fashionistas go her skinny route with a plate of lettuce and onions.
And through it all the music keeps playing, the staff jump up on stage every now and then and bust perfectly choreographed moves to old favourites such as Grease Lightning and YMCA, as well as a couple of newbies including Shakira's Waka Waka and Pussycat Dolls' Jai Ho; and the city's rock fans finally get their second chance to relive the days gone by, when all that mattered was good-old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.
In the words of Robbie Williams and Spice Girl Mel C, "Come and have a go if you think you are hard enough".