Dubai: My teenage daughter asked me what’s inside the Museum of the Future. I was there on 22.2.22 — doing live report for Gulf News — when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and his sons, alongside senior UAE government officials, turned on the lights signalling the opening of the futuristic museum.
I got the answers to my daughter’s question the following day, when I joined the group of select media given the first exclusive tour of the Museum. I texted her what I also told by my editors for my report: “One cannot help but be enthralled upon entering the door of the Museum of the Future. Every corner speaks about the future. Every nook tells a story about tomorrow, today.”
But my bewilderment actually began as soon as I parked my car and walked towards the 77-metre high pillarless torus-shaped futuristic structure sitting atop a green mound (representing Earth), planted with endemic trees and plants. It was a sight to behold seeing up close for the first time in broad daylight the Arabic calligraphy-clad spherical building.
Then, as soon as I stepped inside the Museum, it was time-travel to the future — in 2071 to be exact, when the UAE would celebrate its centenary. I was immediately impressed by the spiral staircase, the three tubes of transparent lifts, the ‘flying dolphin’ that welcomed the guests, and of course, the Arabic calligraphy engravings on the ceiling and the whitewashed walls that gave an ethereal feeling.
It was like a scene ripped from the pages of science fiction novels or culled from sci-fi films. The impression created proved that the Museum really meant business as it was built to inspire visitors to think about the future. The interior, divided into seven levels, speaks of creativity and innovation. It was as impressive from the inside at it was from the outside.
The Museum staff were very accommodating and there was Aya, the digital resident of the Museum of the Future. The avatar described herself as a visionary technologist who welcomed us at the start of the tour. One thing, however, I would have been more impressed if Aya was presented as a hologram, similar to how Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, wowed the audience when he delivered a speech at the World Government Summit via hologram back in 2019.
The narrative of the Museum is told in five chapters: OSS Hope, Heal Institute, Al Waha, Tomorrow Today and Future Heroes. Aya was the guide during the first stop, aboard OSS (Orbital Space Station) Hope.
Journey to space
A few decades from now, space travel would be as easy and convenient as flying abroad. This was my impression when we “took off” from Dubai, aboard a replica of the space shuttle made by NASA in 1981 that brought us to experience what it would be like 600 kms above the Earth.
Aya said while it took two days for astronauts back in 1980s to reach the Orbital Space Station, visitors to Museum of the Future would need only 4 minutes and 30 seconds to reach their destination in space.
It was a simulated journey to space — complete with bumps and turbulence — but in a safe environment. I looked at the windows of the space shuttle and saw Burj Al Arab and The Palm Jumeirah getting smaller and smaller as we “zoomed” to the sky.
The space journey was made complete with a docking experience on OSS Hope and here was the better part as I was ushered to the command centre of the station, where I had a complete view of the moon being transformed into a source of renewable energy for Earth.
I was recruited to join a futuristic mission called the Sol Project, a global effort to provide energy source to Earth by harnessing energy from the Moon using lunar photovoltaic (PV) energy cells. In the future, a wide array of PV cells would be spread on the moon source and energy would be transported to satellites orbiting the moon, which in turn will become microwave energy beamed on Earth.
I liked how OSS Hope was presented as a symbol of humanity’s aspiration to have a better future — not only for harnessing a new energy source but how people would eventually come together, regardless of colour and race to explore space. It reminded me of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise.
This was the purpose of OSS Hope — to be a beacon for all as engraved on its immersive command centre were marginal notes written in English, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French and Hindi. And below it was a marker signed by the UAE Space Agency dated December 2, 2060.
After “flying” to Space, I headed back to Earth and landed at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Next stop in the journey to the future was the Heal Institute, designed as an ecosystem simulator, where tropical forests come alive to give people a better understanding of how climate change is affecting our environment.
I was shown the ‘Vault of Life’, a digital library containing the DNA of over 2,400 species on Earth. The museum guide told me that real scientists were sent to Amazon for two weeks to digitally map the information. It was very interesting to do a “mix and match” of various DNA sequences and see what extinct species can come back to life and also have the code to preserve the threatened species.
It was a needed break from loads of information after reaching the next journey at the Museum. Al Waha or The Oasis (in English), the third chapter, was an engaging experience advocating the promotion of mental health.
As the guide, who assisted me, said: “The future of wellness is a travel to a sanctuary free from digital bondage. Here, visitors are reconnected to their human senses and brought to a ‘safe sanctum’ where they can find inner peace for the mind, body and spirit.”
I was told to put down my smart phones for a couple of minutes and have a moment to really relax. It may sound paradoxical when we talk about the future and equate it with smart devices but disconnecting from technology and having just a minute to sit back and relax, will make one feel reinvigorated and energised.
The ambience at this section of the Museum — enhanced by a combination of various elements, including water, light, music and sound vibration — took my stress away.
After emerging from a relaxing environment, I entered the fourth chapter titled Tomorrow Today. The question — what can we expect in the next couple of decades or 50 years from now — was answered by the world’s leading innovators who presented near-future technologies.
This section of the museum is replete with displays and talking about the future of mobility, customised and intelligent management, automation, flight to space, artificial Intelligence, health and wellness, medical technology, climate change, and more.
I was particularly impressed by Robird, a robotic falcon and Sedric (short for self-driving car), an all-electric autonomous concept car that can mimic the behaviour of any human-driven car.
My final stop was Future Heroes, the Museum’s dedicated space for children to explore and play. Although there were no kids during my visit, I had the impression that it was not just a playground as it was more of an imagination lab, where kids are encouraged to develop future-proof skills. Here, they will learn how to imagine, design and build their own future.
Leaving a legacy
“A better and brighter future” — that was the last message I sent to my daughter, after describing to her all the things that I saw inside the Museum of the Future.
It was already night when I finished the tour. As a I left the museum and headed towards where I parked my car, I made a last glance and took a parting shot of the Museum, with its silver lights glittering amid a background of a dark, cloudless sky.
I asked again: What will the future be for my kids, and the children of my children and the next generations to come. Then I was reminded by one of the quotes by Sheikh Mohammed emblazoned on the building: “We may not live for hundreds of years, but the products of our creativity can leave a legacy long after we are gone.”
Tickets and timings
Entry tickets to the Museum of the Future are prices at Dh145. Children under three years old are free-of-charge. Complimentary tickets are also available for senior Emirati citizens above the age of 60, people of determination plus one accompanying caregiver.
Online bookings should be made before the preferred visiting time as each ticket holder will be allocated a specific time slot during the museum’s opening hours from 10am to 6pm all week long.
There are 12 slots daily, timed every 30 minutes, starting at 11:30am and the last entry is at 5pm, one hour before the museum closes at 6pm.