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How the Da Vinchi Code inspired this UAE entrepreneur to develop an urban treasure hunt app for Dubai


UAE-based entrepreneur Asim Bashir talks to Kipp about his vision for his recently launched app ‘Urban Hunt Dubai’

February 13, 2013 3:09 by

“You look up to see the time, while you go round and round. Where o where in Dubai can this site be found?”

“Dubai has many malls, but this one is unique. Walk past its canal, until you reach the creek”


If you can figure out which location these two clues allude to, you could stand to win some gold.

‘Urban Hunt Dubai’ is a mobile application developed by UAE-based entrepreneurs Asim Bashir and Sherleen Ali, which sends people on a GPS-orientated treasure hunt across the city. The weekly prizes for the application range from a 5 gram gold coin worth Dh1,000, movie tickets to tickets for Cirque du Soleil.

“Put simply, it is just a treasure hunt on your mobile phone. There are no other gimmicks” says Bashir.

Every week a user will get an email with details of when the week’s clue will be released and the prizes to be won. Clues are generally sent out on Fridays. Upon receiving a clue, the user can select an option which will let them know based on their GPS coordinates, whether they are close to the treasure.

If the user is within a radius of 100 meters of the virtual treasure, they will see a revolving coin on their screen which they can seize to claim their treasure. They get in touch with the company to claim their prize.

“I got the idea for Urban Hunt when I was watching the Da Vinchi Code. I just loved the cryptic nature of the movie and the way the multiple clues lead to the grand finale” says Bashir.

A long time resident of the UAE, Bashir says promoting Dubai is one of the aims of the application: “Everyone goes to the malls here, but there are a lot of areas which do not get as much exposure. We wanted to help people explore Dubai in a fun way. We also choose events that people may not have heard of or have not gone to. For example, we once sent people to the flea market in Safa Park and the Skydiving competition”

Since its soft launch in October, the app has been downloaded 1,300 times and its Facebook page has 5,500 followers. The hunt has a significant following, with a clue taking on an average between 35 minutes to 1 hour to be solved.

Urban Hunt is a product of Memo Tech, a company set up by Asim Bashir in Dubai to develop mobile applications that recently developed the mobile application for Just Falafel. Dubai Urban Hunt is available through the Apple App store and the Android Google Play Store with a Blackberry launch on the cards.

So will Urban Hunt Dubai make money? Free-to-download, the application currently works with other brands through partnerships. But Bashir says he envisions increasing partnerships and getting sponsorships with other brands.

“We can see a lot of value for brands to get involved. For example, we could design a hunt to send people to a particular branch of Starbucks. Alternatively, if a brand is launching a new product, we can create a treasure hunt which can create a buzz. We are also looking at corporate retreats—treasure hunts for an organization maybe for a team-building excersize’

The possibilities are endless, but for now Urban Hunt are just looking to keep the ball moving: “We want to keep this movement continuing. We want to have a treasure hunt every week, every month and build up to a final race. We envision the prizes getting much bigger and making something of an annual Dubai Urban Hunt.”

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