By Asma Ali Zain www.khaleejtimes.com
DUBAI — Before: Excitement. Exhilaration. Nerves.
As for 090909 on Wednesday — Dubai’s, or rather, the UAE’s metro moment — it was a blur as my feet shifted on feeling the swish of motion and reality started sinking in that I was on the first trip of the historic Dubai Metro as it pulled out of the Mall of the Emirates at nine seconds and nine minutes past 9pm.
The hush on board belied the thrill we all, the members of media, felt. We had long covered and read about every development of the ambitious project that would revolutionise transport in the region. And, this was the moment to live it. History was being made and I was experiencing it, first-hand.
All around the station and on the train, there was that peculiar smell of “newness”. The fresh paint, seats never sat on before, spic-and-span windows etc did nothing to make the moment less surreal to me.
The announcements in Arabic, followed by those in English, asking us to “Please stay clear off the doors” is what roused me from my wonderment and I noted the interiors before the blur of history in motion took over.
And later, as if on cue, all mediapersons started making their notes. “What time did we leave,” asked one. “How long are we staying at each station?”asked another. “Five minutes,” came the reply. Are you sure?” “I’m timing.”
We were passing by familiar landmarks on Shaikh Zayed Road and my mind raced back to moments when I used to be on the other side of the window, watching the rail under construction, then the metro trials and wondering how the new system will change transport and mindsets.
The metro came to a halt at the DIFC station minutes later and we rushed out to follow His Highness Shaikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, who was always a sprightly two steps ahead of his entourage.
Before we had the time to take it all in, the theme of the station, the interiors, reactions of co-passengers, a good look at the dignitaries and guests on board the phenomenon unveiling then, it was time to head for the next station on the Red Line.
The RTA officials were on their toes as were the attendants in the train compartment, gently assisting us — it was first for everyone.
Even after more than an hour that the trip took to finish, something like a time warp, including visits to all the 10 stations on the Line, my excitement still knew no bounds.
A momentous occasion as the Metro launch was for the emirate of Dubai and all of UAE, to me, the train will always be something very personal.