We can’t believe how quickly 2016 has started, and AFAR Experiences Dubai is just around the corner, kicking off next week on February 4. We are super excited to learn more about this entrepreneurial city and the way it continues to reinvent itself. One of our speakers who is very much involved with the emirate’s evolution is Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai office.

Smart Dubai is an ambitious project that aims to harness technology—particularly communications—to improve city services in such sectors as governance, society, the economy, and the environment, ensuring a more efficient and inclusive experience for both residents and visitors. As you can imagine, Dr. Aisha is beyond busy, but she took a few minutes to answer some questions for us about the Smart City project, and what she loves about Dubai.

What are you going to be talking about at AFAR Experiences Dubai?

"The speech will be exploring Dubai’s journey towards achieving its mandate to become the world’s happiest city. So it will highlight the city’s collaborative approach to smart city transformation, the success that we have achieved, and what is being done to address the remaining challenges." 

So what is a smart city?

"Smart Dubai as an initiative was born out of the visionary approach of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, our leader, to focus the city's unified efforts toward its most valued assets, its people. We will uplift all the infrastructure in the city and make sure that all services are seamless, efficient, and give an impactful experience for residents and visitors."

What's your favorite thing about living in Dubai?

"[laughs] This is a tricky question because I'm a Dubaian. Dubai is a melting pot of cultures—the metropolitan aspect of the city makes it a great place to live. Ideas and platforms for entrepreneurship and innovation are in place. It is very safe, and there is a great tolerance in the city that makes it welcoming to anyone coming to it." 

What’s the one thing you think all visitors to Dubai must see or do?

"[laughs] This is again a difficult question to answer. It depends on what visitors like to do, as Dubai is ever-changing and there is always something for everyone. Even for us as Dubaians—whenever I travel for a few days and I come back I see something new, and I just keep my eyes open to see what's happened here and there. So there are hundreds and hundreds of activities that anyone can relate to in Dubai."

Is there any misconception about Dubai that you wish people around the world didn't have?

"Today I don't think so. Maybe if that question had been asked during the ‘80s or the ‘90s I'd say yes, people think Dubai is a desert or we have oil. But now people are really aware of what Dubai is. And I can't believe it, wherever I travel and whoever I meet, from a taxi driver to a receptionist in the hotel to a sales lady, all of them know about Dubai and wish to visit Dubai."

Learn more about AFAR Experiences Dubai here, and plan your own trip using our Dubai Destination Guide.

>>Next: Jamil Abu-Wardeh on Comedy & Life in Dubai