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Can you believe the Dubai Metro is three-years old?

As the metro turns three, Dubai-veteran Eva Fernandes waxes sentimental of the city that was and is.

September 9, 2012 8:16 by

When Ali Mustafa decided to make the UAE’s version of CRASH, he chose to title the film ‘City of Life.’ Terribly inspiring, isn’t it? City of Life? In my mind a title as magnificent translates into a picture of a serene paradise-like island crowded with too many tall lush green trees rooted in red fertile mud; and all around this plot of land, clear blue waters continuously lap at the island’s shores in keeping with the little island’s throbbing pulse of uncompromising and ever promising “life”.

And then, there is Dubai.

Living in this Emirate for twenty odd years, if pressed for a description of Dubai “City of Life” wouldn’t necessarily be the first term to pop into my mind. For the better part of the 1990’s Dubai was a pleasant sleepy city with big and sometimes strange aspirations. The now-demolished Dubai Metropolitan Hotel marked the end of civilization and if you ever wanted to travel so far, you could haggle with a taxi driver over the price of the trip before you stepped in his private taxi. It was a city with only three shopping malls and the World Trade Center, now dwarfed by its neighboring skyscrapers, was the tallest building in Dubai visible from around the city. English programming was available on only one local television station—Channel 33—and only within the window of two in the afternoon till midnight. The best fountains in all of Dubai were to be seen in Bur Juman, it was a hundredth of the size of the current Dubai Fountains by the Burj Khalifa, but it was just as magical.

Yes, it was a sleepy sleepy little city, but that changed quickly, too quickly. As we moved into the new millennium things started to pick up speed. Soon we heard of ambitious plans; plans to build the tallest building, the biggest shopping mall, a massive financial district and a luxury business community among other things. I remember reading of these plans in the newspapers and shaking my head in disbelief not because I was skeptical, as I currently am. No, I was disbelieving because I just couldn’t fathom how the sleepy old Dubai which I knew and loved was going to race against time and make the kind of infrastructural changes that other cities took decades to develop.

The epitome of this kind of discord was typified by the announcement of the plans to construct a metro system. I can still remember the first time I read about the metro in the Khaleej Times. This grand metro, they spoke of, was to connect Dubai to the “new” corners of the Emirate which were under development. From the relatively unknown Dubai Marina to the more populated areas of Deira and Karama, this metro would snake about the corners of the city without a driver. The metro was to take four years to construct and would be the beginning of a transportation revolution—indeed there were plans of having three different lines sprawled across the city; all connected by proposed trams and feeder buses.

Excuse me for being so sentimental, but the metro marked such a turning point for Dubai-it was unlike any other infrastructural aspiration the city had undertaken ever before. Sure by that time Sheikh Zayed road was studded with towers which seemed to scrap the sunny sky and yes, Emaar was in the process of constructing the world’s tallest tower—but this metro system required Dubai to literally break the city apart from within to build connectivity.

Say whatever you will about Dubai and its steroid-induced growth, there can be little doubt to the success of its metro. It opened two lines through the toughest of recessions and the fact that it celebrates its third anniversary today makes me keenly aware of the time which has passed. The inauguration of the metro stands as a marker of one of the Emirate’s benchmarks of development and sure, it is anywhere from perfect, but it is still one of the city’s grandest of achievements.

So here is to three years of taking the everyday man from Point A to Point B and everywhere in between.

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1 Comment

  1. mandarin on September 11, 2012 4:08 pm

    Eva you echoed my thoughts. Having been a resident of this ‘paradoxical’ city for 20 years as well, it sometimes enthralls and sometimes frustrates but all in all remains a place that one calls home albeit a ‘transitory’ residence.


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