Read the first ever Dubai Metro review exclusively on Time Out Dubai
Wow! I never thought I’d get this excited about the launch of a train line, but, in all honesty, I’m beside myself. One of just 40 media representatives from across the globe invited to share a train with HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Ruler of Dubai.
It all starts, as no doubt it should in Dubai, in a mall. After canapés and soft drinks in a cordoned-off area of Mall of the Emirate’s beside Harvey Nics (while being studied by a rapidly growing crowd of shoppers), I’m ushered into a vast temporary auditorium.
Once Sheikh Mohammed has taken his seat (following a rendition of the UAE national anthem), the audience dons its complimentary 3D specs and watches a series of utterly fantastic films about the trainline’s construction. Evidently no expense has been spared, as the train ride we are about to experience is convincingly simulated on screen.
Next there’s a mad dash through the mall to the station, past hundreds of silent, but smiling, onlookers. The moment Sheikh Mohammed puts the No 1 ticket into the feeder, a flurry of party streamers explode and a fresh round of whoops break out. Finally – the large international, though predominantly Emirati crowd board the train.
The atmosphere couldn’t be more charged. With a turquoise and grey colour scheme and a soothing spa-style soundtrack, the inside of the train is strongly reminiscent of Hong Kong’s metro – spacious, sparkling and slick. As the train begins to move, cheers break out all down the carriages, as huge fireworks erupt outside.
The metro hurtles at top speed down Sheikh Zayed Road. I spot construction workers outside waving up at us, and wave right back. Before I know it (and because we didn’t stop at any other stations en route) we’ve arrived at Dubai International Financial Center and have five minutes to wander about, before being herded back onto the train to set off to the Khalid bin Al Waleed Station in Bur Dubai. Here things begin to get a bit manic: rather than listen to the planned ‘poetic verses’, the crowds instead follow Sheikh Mohammed about as he checks the finished pod out. Back onboard, a fresh round of fireworks light up the skies as we pull away, then zoom on to the biggest underground station in the world – Union Square.
All the time passengers of various nationalities chat, laugh and smile at each together – strangers to each other a few hours before, now sharing seats and an utterly unique experience. It feels like I’ve stepped into a living, breathing Dubai promo video. The city looks more impressive from this height – and this velocity. Already we’ve reached T3, where a giant mosaic of Sheikh Mohammed is unveiled by…Sheikh Mohammed. I pass him on the way back to the train. ‘How are you?’ he asks, a big grin on his face. He’s warm and friendly. Dubai’s leader is in a very good mood.
And it’s no surprise: despite some waiting around, and then sudden rushing about, Dubai’s much-hyped metro launch is going incredibly smoothly. As the train pulls into Rashidiya Station, our last stop, the mood is absolutely fantastic – even more upbeat than at the start of the journey.
Final fireworks blast off and Sheikh Mohammed places the last piece of Lego onto a metro model, before getting very nearly mobbed at a press conference. There may be a little pushing and shoving among the excitable crowd, but there are plenty of jokey comments and smiles shared too.
Once Sheikh Mohammed has chatted to the few that could reach him, he jumps into his white Range Rover and drives off (only since the metro isn’t doing a return journey tonight).
And me? Well, I’ve just seen Dubai in an utterly new light – one in which travel is cheap, quick and comfortable, and where it’s possible to interact with a large portion of Dubai’s population somewhere outside a mall. I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked.
That’s until, moments later, I’m told the taxis waiting outside (with their lights on) are ‘reserved’ and that I have to go hail our own on the neighbouring highway.
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Noel Sep 15, 2009 04:46 pm
The Metro seems to be MAINLY to the benefit of the mall owners as it inevitably draws shoppers! The metro ought to have gone through the lovely beach hotels (then again the cabs would be out of business), through Jumeira (then too the Jumeira Janes and Johns would not ride it). Still it would be good for tourists though.
The stops are so well made.....Time Square, Ibn Batuta, MOE, Bur Juman etc.
I do not mean to be a pessimist but it is wrong to compare it to the metro in London or France. In your OWN country you would not mind paying higher as you could RIGHTLY call that home!
SP Sep 15, 2009 01:56 pm
Great metro, comfortable, air conditioned, very inexpensive when compared to London. However, only a few stations are open at the moment. For Dubai Mall, you have to get off at Financial Centre and take a feeder bus (F13) - and have a pre-paid NOL card or buy one on the bus for 20Dhs - or get a taxi. Two major problems - first, the stations are far too small, there are really long queues at 5pm at Mall of the Emirates to get into and get out of the station - there are just not enough ticket barriers. The second problem is that although the ticket gates are wide enough for pushchairs/strollers, the staff don't let you go through the ticket gate with the pushchair. You have to give the pushchair (and child) to a security guard and then leave them while you queue for 10 minutes to go through the ticket gate. Poor planning. I also had to queue at other stations, even when they looked very quiet. I was told by staff that they only allowed 60 people on to the platform at any one time!
Maria & Nilar Sep 15, 2009 01:43 pm
Second time that we try to take the metro and we couldn't.
On Sunday afternoon we wanted to go from Nakheel Harbour to Deira, we went inside the train and we waited 30mins, every time we asked how long? the answer was 5mins.
At the end we went by car because the train never started and they didn't refund our tickets!!!
Dee Sep 15, 2009 09:23 am
@Catherine Blackmore ... probably coz she didn't get out at any station but stayed in the train the entire time. From MOE to Deira, it costs 4.10 and 4.10 return when you include the charge on actually getting out at a station as opposed to getting in at Deira, going all the way till the end, coming back and getting out at Deira again.
Catherine Blackmore Sep 14, 2009 03:18 pm
Perhaps Tahseen could explain to Rahmat how she managed to travel from Deira to JA for D2 when he complained that it cost him D12????