Metropolis: Romancing the rail


    By XPRESS Team 

    Dubai Unlike steam engines of a bygone era, soot-black columns of smoke won’t be seen puffing from sleek new electric Dubai Metro trains streaking down the Red Line.

    © XPRESS/Abdel-Krim Kallouche
    © XPRESS/Abdel-Krim Kallouche

    Nor will we hear the clickety-clack of railway tracks or a sharp train whistle as rickety boxcars roll lazily away into the horizon.

    But the launch of the Dubai Metro on September 9 will usher a new old-world nostalgia for the romance of the rail and also a curious new lifeline many are eager to sample up close and personal for the first time.

     Business commuters see the Metro trains as a mere alternative to rush-hour traffic but others told XPRESS they see a journey aboard the Dubai Metro as their first real opportunity to experience history’s longstanding love affair with trains.

    Quickly, the train passed by. I had been waiting on the sidewalk. Travellers were rushing to their daily lives… and I continued to wait      Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet “

    National pride

    Retired UAE armed forces officer Emirati Mohammad Al Beloushi and family are waiting anxiously for their first train ride aboard a Dubai Metro train.

    The family has already visited some of the stations to see the train sets first-hand. Son Fahd, Maitha’a, his daughter, and his three little grandchildren Mohammad, Khalifa and Khalfan are all waiting for Dubai Metro to open.

    * Click to download the pdf to learn how to use the metro

    Al Beloushi, 58, said he will wave from the Metro to all those admiring from the sidelines what he calls “a huge success for the first time in Dubai and the UAE”.

    “This Metro is made for me and for all Emiratis and all UAE’s guests,” he said.

    Fahd, 29, who works in Abu Dhabi, said: “I’ve never been on a train and my first time will be on one in my country. I hope all the emirates will soon be linked through a Metro system. I would get to see more of my family and kids.”

    Maitha’a, 24, who works at Emirates Bank, remembers as a child playing with her Tom and Jerry train and daydreaming of riding in a passenger car. “I always wished we had our own train instead of just seeing them in European countries,” she said.

    Similarly, Afghanistan national Aseel Zada, 54, remembers when trains raced past his home in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he worked as a watchman.

    Zada, a gardener in Sharjah, dreams of some day feeling the noise and rumbling sensation of travelling by rail. “I would like to ride on it, at least once.”

    The long wait

    Like Zada, Ainnuddin Yaftali, a driver, 24, from Darwaz, Badakhshan, Afghanistan, has never experienced the joy of being whisked along the rails and is longing for this.

    “There are no trains in Afghanistan and the only time I have seen trains are in Indian movies because we watch those a lot in Afghanistan,” said Yaftali.

    * Here’s all you need to know about the metro ticketing system

    Nine-year-old Shazia Farooqui, a student at Our Own High School in Sharjah, has waited for as long as she can remember to ride a train and hopes to be among the first to use the Dubai Metro.

    Ironically, the railway station in her Indian hometown in Lucknow, India, is just a couple of kilometres from her house yet she has never had a chance to see a train, let alone ride in one.

    “The only train I have seen and been on is the children’s train in Al Ain Zoo,” she said.

    Earlier this year, Farooqui went to India to attend her aunt’s wedding in Bareilly, some 200 kilometres from Lucknow: “I was very excited because everybody said we would go there by train. But the plan changed and we ended up hiring a bus. I was very disappointed.”

    Sharjah resident Zubair Haider, a Pakistani executive who has never been on a train, believes the Metro will make travelling safer in Dubai.

    “Even when I visited Pakistan I didn’t get a chance to ride one. I’m based in Islamabad and mostly travel short distances within the city. If I want to travel far – to Karachi, for example – I catch a plane,” he said.

    Haider, 30, said he “can see myself riding [the Metro] with my friends. There shouldn’t be traffic or parking problems when you go to the mall, for example. Besides, it’ll be fun and safe.”

    Logistics professional Sami Hassan, 24, hails from Haifa, Palestine, and lives in Dubai.

    “I can’t wait to see what it will be like to go on a train. I feel like a kid again. I’m counting the days. I sure hope it’s on schedule because I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

    The upside of the Metro, he said, is people will use cars less frequently and by doing so will save vehicle-operating costs.

    “With all the Salik gates, petrol costs and bottlenecks connected with driving your car, using the Metro makes sense. I wonder if it’ll go fast enough though. This is Dubai after all, and everyone seems to be in a hurry.”
    Indian exporter Mohammad Tanveer believes the Metro “will change the face of Dubai. I plan to take the Metro the first couple of days to get it out of my system”.

    Tanveer, who hails from Lucknow, said the real challenge for many people will be leaving the family car behind.

    (With inputs from Derek Baldwin, Atia Rabbani, Mazhar Farooqui, Salam Al Amir and Faisal Masudi)