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The chaos and the fury

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

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?

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  1. smithy on January 4, 2011 6:03 am

    Dearest Kipp, I do sympathise, I really do, but seriously is there really anything that you described there that came as a surprise? We all know that this town is full of the kind of complete b*****d who truly believe he has the right to trample (or drive) over the rest of us. The question I suppose is, was it worth the hassle to see some big fireworks and will you do it again next time (dodgy knee permitting)?

  2. Rowena Alderson on January 4, 2011 6:53 am

    Why are you surprised about the chaos on the roads on NY Eve? I drive to Yas Island daily from Dubai and am constantly flabbergasted by the still persistently dangerous driving on the E11 highway. On the last working day before NY Eve, driving back from Abu Dhabi I passed 5 accidents. Needless to say the highway was gridlocked most of the way and this just encouraged the usual suspects to drive at vast speed up the central reserve and the hard shoulder. This is still common practice on a daily basis despite the media saying how much ‘safer the roads are these days’. As Kipp states, ‘their needs outweigh the rest!’ and if this elitist attitude continues, the roads will continue to be a death trap waiting to happen.

  3. Nigel on January 4, 2011 6:55 am

    The authorities face an impossible challenge when dealing with the local populace – most people living here dont have a clue about traffic rules or how to drive a car correctly so is it any wonder that things descend into chaos on a regular basis. Here’s a solution – don’t give driving licenses to these idiots. How to do that? Easy, make the test a true measure of their capability and understanding of road rules & etiquette. Follow that up with another test (yes, another one) 6 months later and if they fail that then no more chances, they are off the road for good. Having spoken to people who have recently passed their test here it is frightening to see how little they know about driving – even basic stuff about lane changing (apparently indicating gives them a divine right to change lanes even if it means running others off the road to do it).
    Get to the root cause of the problem rather than blame the police for trying to manage people who neither know nor care about traffic rules.

  4. Andrew on January 4, 2011 12:09 pm

    What Nigel said about the divine right of indicating is perhaps the one thing that aggravates me the most. I can’t think how many times in just a single day I’ve had someone cut me up as their indicator was flashed once a millisecond before they’ve moved across.
    Withholding licenses isn’t going to stop Emiratis driving, which whether we admit it or not, are the worst on the road by a huge margin.

  5. Ofiroz on January 4, 2011 9:43 pm

    I was there on the New Year Eve to watch the great fire work as I got a SMS invitation on the same day. I was coming from the business bay, got stuck, grunted, panted, coughed, never over took anybody in harsh way nor did I drive over the pavement. I have a mighty FJ Cruiser with monster wheels!
    All what I was doing was abusing myself for leaving my regular place where I used to celebrate New Year Eve all those years in UAE for watching this candle light on Burj Khaleefa!


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