x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Time Frame: Before an indoor ski slope, Dubai had LeisureLand

A father and child relax inside a "Magic Orange" at Dubai's LeisureLand amusement park in 1979.

AP Photo
AP Photo

Long before it was possible to ski on real snow in the heart of the desert or tumble down a vertiginous water slide on a man-made island shaped like a palm tree, no fun day in Dubai was complete without a visit to a Magic Orange.

LeisureLand opened in October 1979, just a few weeks before this photograph was taken and more than two decades before the more sophisticated pleasures of Ski Dubai, Wild Wadi and Aquaventure.

But for a city starved of entertainment, it was every bit as exciting. The 48-acre site in Bur Dubai boasted magic pineapples as well as oranges, swings shaped like bananas, an Olympic-size ice rink, pool tables and the UAE's first roller coaster.

Despite the refinement of more recent attractions, LeisureLand's opening can be seen as the start of the city's rise as an entertainment as well as a commercial centre. So think of the Magic Oranges next time you plummet down the Leap of Faith or hit the world's hardest indoor ski run. Or, given that LeisureLand is still open, why not pay it a visit?

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae