Who would use the metro? Back in the days when the metro project was announced, at every party and gathering, the hot topic of discussion was who would use the public transport. It was clear that many were sceptical about the project. And as a new journalist fresh out of college, in 2009, I was assigned to cover the launch of the Dubai Metro.
Spread over ten stations between Rashidiya and Ibn Battuta Mall at the time, the Dubai metro was a great addition to the city’s infrastructure, but was it practical? With summertime temperatures soaring above 45º C, how would people continue their onward journey? These were the questions on the residents’ minds.
I recall a party I was attending a little before the launch. “I really don’t think people will use it much,” said a gentleman at the gathering. “Maybe we might be able to come to work on it during the cooler months,” a colleague commented. My father quipped sagely, “I am sure Sheikh Mohammed has an elaborate plan that we don’t see. Who knows, maybe someday we cannot imagine the city without the metro.”
Fast forward to 2023, and the Dubai Metro has transported over two billion riders since it launched in 2009, with a punctuality rate of 99.7 per cent.
The big launch
The Red Line of the Dubai Metro was launched on 09.09.09, and I attended the press conference, watching enviously as other senior journalists alighted from the train. I wanted to be one of them, and two years later, I was! When the Green Line of the Dubai Metro was launched, I was among the 15 journalists invited to ride on the train with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai.
Born and raised in the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed was on the top of my “celebrities I want to meet” list since childhood. I had watched the visionary transform the city from a desert oasis into the uber-cool city that it became. I was excited to be riding the metro but even more excited about meeting my hero.
The trip on the Green Line was everything I had dreamt of and some more. Sheikh Mohammed, along with Matar Al Tayer, Director General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and other senior government officials, travelled in a separate compartment. However, as we alighted at each station to look around, so did they. Wearing a golden colour kandoora, I watched Sheikh Mohammed survey the culmination of his vision. There was a sense of satisfaction in his eyes but also a fire to envision a more advanced city.
One of the most memorable moments that evening was getting out at the Al Ras metro station. We climbed the stairs from the underground station to go outside. Crowds thronged on either side of the road, hoping to get a glimpse of Sheikh Mohammed as a helicopter encircled the area. The mood was festive. It felt like the whole city was celebrating the fruition of a dream.
A feather in the cap
Over the years, I have watched the Dubai Metro become an irreplaceable part of the city and my life. For millions, the lifeline allows them to commute around the city. When I moved homes, I looked for an apartment near the metro station. I have made countless trips across the city using the metro.
Earlier this year, I applied for a special student card for my children. They now use the metro on a daily basis to commute to and from school or to meet their friends at malls. In a way, I have grown up with the metro. Here’s to many more years of excellence.
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