Knowing that I am a keen photographer of Dubai’s architecture, a fellow instagrammer, @femsta, recently asked me if I had a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe on Sheikh Zayed Road. I replied that I would set out to take one upon my return from Canada.
This morning saw me heading that way only to discover a building with signs that said it was to be demolished. I went around taking photos of what remained.
Unaware of the history of this building I had to do a bit of research upon my return home.
Dubai’s Hard Rock Cafe opened in 1997 in an area that was then the outskirts of Dubai. Its architectural theme of a mini Empire State Building in the desert, with a globe at the top that read “Save the Planet” and two great mock electric guitars outside the building, gave rise to many differing opinions.
Chuck Berry performed at its opening, and despite its architecture and location Dubai’s Hard Rock Cafe grew in popularity. The cafe’s rock ‘n roll style became highly popular and people “trekked” across the city to visit it. Michael Jackson had lunch there in 2005, confirming that his shoes on display there were indeed his.
2002 saw the property boom in Dubai, and soon the Hard Rock Cafe, once in the middle of nowhere, was surrounded by construction and major development. The hotel to which the cafe was attached was shut down in 2008 when the land it was on was sold to developers. As a result the cafe lost its alcohol licence. Thanks to the lobbying of the public the cafe managed to stay open for a while but eventually had to shut its doors in 2009 and await demolition.
A new Hard Rock Cafe has since opened in Festival City in Dubai but redevelopment of the old site has been delayed by the collapse of the property boom. As a result the old Hard Rock Cafe is still standing in a state of decay as I found it this morning.
Looking at photos on the internet of what it had once been and then looking at the photos I had taken, was a strong reminder that nothing is permanent. Everything is in a state of flux.
Night becomes day and day becomes night, spring will soon become summer, technologies will change and develop, my website is already a year old, my holiday to Canada is over, and I will soon be moving apartments. The knowledge that my jet lag will pass too is a comforting one!
Clinging to an idea of permanence only causes suffering. Mindfulness of the ever-changing now brings with it an openness to the new, a realization of the importance of compassion for all beings, and a willingness to be part of the creative process.
In the seventies Eric Clapton used to hang out in the very first Hard Rock Cafe. When he asked the young proprietors to save him a regular table by putting up something like a plaque, they suggested they put up Clapton’s guitar. This was done and then a week later they were sent a guitar by Pete Townsend of The Who. The concept that made the Hard Rock Cafe famous had taken root.
The two guitars outside the decaying building on Sheikh Zayed Road might be weeping, but I would like to think they do so gently because they know and accept that they too will one day no longer be. And that too will be okay.
“I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps”.