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The chaos and the fury
Were you at Burj Khalifa for the New Year fireworks? Do you wish you hadn’t been? Kipp needs to have a bit of a rant…
January 3, 2011 2:03 by shafeer
If you were one of the thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers caught up in the chaos surrounding Burj Khalifa over the weekend, our sympathies are with you. Not too much, though, as we were also trapped in the carnage and so we have to save some sympathy for ourselves.
For those of you who weren’t there, this National article should give you a rough idea of what went on. In a nutshell, roads were gridlocked, metro stations were packed, and no one got anywhere very fast.
According to Emaar, half a million people converged on Downtown Dubai to watch the fireworks display on the Burj (which, by the way, were nowhere near as good as at the opening in January). Of course, Emaar actually “estimated” that number days before the event, so we’re not sure we’ll trust their assessment. However having been there, we are prepared to say there were a lot of people.
On ill thought-out roads and a single metro line the result was nothing short of chaos. Kipp thought it would be smart and leave it an hour or more before we struck out for home, yet as we set off we were almost mown down by a four wheel drive that had decided to avoid the long queue of traffic on Emaar Boulevard by simply driving on the pavement. He was the first of several as we made our way to the metro stop.
Here, we found queues of people in their hundreds, waiting to get into the station. As a result it was clear every train for the foreseeable future would be full; Kipp resigned itself to getting a taxi. Since the north bound Sheikh Zayed Road was at a total standstill (it turned out the gridlock stretched all the way back to the Oasis Centre and beyond) with some cars apparently parked (!), it was clear we needed to get to the other side. Here the metro bridge would have come in handy, but since hundreds were queuing at every door there was no telling when we might get in. Many people chose to cross Sheikh Zayed Road; no problem on the gridlocked north bound side, but not such an enticing prospect on the still-relatively-fast-moving south bound. With its gammy knee and notorious bad luck, Kipp thought better of that. And so we set off, following the metro line towards the Metropolitan.
Along the way another four wheel drive came at us, this one mounted a curb and verge to get onto an unfinished road that pedestrians were using. We took great pleasure in watching as the driver got stuck – evidently he or she had forgotten that you have to engage the four wheel drive before it will work. Two cars soon after decided that, since the traffic wasn’t moving in the direction they wanted to go, they’d just turnaround and go against the flow. This they managed by using the dirt by the roads (again where pedestrians were walking) and their horns.
We figured that at the next metro stop, Business Bay, we’d have a chance to cross the road (though all trains from Burj Khalifa would surely be full). But once again there were queues at the station doors, and since there were no police at the scene some scuffling broke out. At one point – and we’re not making this up – we heard a metro employee yelling: “Women and children first.” Feel free to make your own Titanic/sinking ship jokes.
Eventually, we found salvation. We walked all the way past the Metropolitan hotel, up the Sheikh Zayed slip road to the petrol station at Interchange 2, opposite the Pepsi building. Here, we managed to flag a cab, though it was a risky business, and from there we headed back to Kipp’s cave near the Marina.
The whole thing was an utter fiasco, not just for us, but for thousands and thousands of Dubai residents. And Kipp is lucky, aside from the trick knee we’re in good health – we can’t imagine how hard things must have been for disabled or the elderly, forced to stand or walk for hours. But what upsets us is not, surprisingly, the complete inability of the UAE to organize a major event without it descending into traffic related anarchy; it’s the behavior of those residents who seem to think their needs outweigh the rest. The disgruntled queue member that tried to force his way into the metro station, causing a scuffle; the selfish drivers who chose to mount the pavement to sate their own impatience; the idiots that parked their cars on busy roads so they could watch some fireworks.
Kipp actually feels a little sorry for the authorities; when you’re dealing with people like that, how will you ever bring order to the chaos?