Nine hours in Dubai

Did I mention I’m not in Baghdad anymore? Well…there you go. The higher powers decided to ship me back to the states for a couple weeks and booked me a flight through Dubai. I only had a nine-hour layover, which is pretty short, but it was just enough time to zip to the other side of the city (emirate?) and back…

…because the new Dubai Metro just opened!!!

I didn’t do anything notable on 9/9/9, but that’s when Dubai unveiled ten stops on their new Red Line. If I have my facts correct, there are 26 stops all together on the Red Line, and a Green Line will open next year. I arrived in Dubai on the 10th, giving the metro workers a day to get their stuff in order…(or so I thought).

I read a friend’s copy of Lonely Planet Dubai and decided that after buzzing around on the metro for a bit, I really wanted to take an abra ride on the river…a boat ride, essentially. But my first priority was the metro. I figured it was the best was to get some good views of the city.

The most outlying station was the Mall of the Emirates.

I later found out it’s the one with the giant indoor ski slope, but my jet lag led me to believe it wasn’t…so I didn’t go looking for it. I wandered around for about ten minutes and after seeing nothing but Ramadan deals on diamonds and electronics, I figured I might as well make my way back closer to the airport (the ride out there had taken over an hour).

It seems that the purpose of the metro was to make transportation easier and to lessen some notoriously bad traffic. Maybe the organizers didn’t know it would be such a hit so quickly, but as soon as I made my way back to the metro, there was already a huge crowd forming at the doors…nobody was allowed to go in and people were getting frustrated.

The automated ticket-purchasing machines (all two of them) were out of service, and another desperate-looking worker timidly told everybody to get in line to buy tickets from the two ticket booths while he tried to reattach two “out of order” signs that were ripped down.

Eventually , I was back on the metro going back to the airport (unscathed, hamdulilah!). I vowed to get a different view of the city on the way back, so I gave up my seat to a chatty bunch of pre-teens (mostly decked out in purple hijabs and rhinestone accessories). And what did I see?

More construction…!

Seriously, a lot of construction.

I also saw the supposed “icon” of Dubai, the Eiffel Tower of the Middle East, as they sometimes refer to it.

Okay, so by now I’m sure it’s obvious that my main impression from Dubai was the overwhelming sense of construction and industry. Tall (and mostly empty) buildings, endless (propaganda?) about materializing a certain notion of what a perfect commercial and touristy city should be like. I get it. But at one point I looked up at the map of all the stations that will eventually open on the red and green lines and thought to myself…

couldn’t anybody think of better names than “Internet City” and “Healthcare City”?

Even some random Arabic word would’ve been more creative…but “internet city” just seems like someone gave up. I hope the architecture makes up for the truly uninspiring names.

And that was my layover in Dubai. It took me so long to get back to the airport that I skipped my boat trip and decided to relax and gawk at all of the gold shops in Terminal 1. Seriously…so much gold! I considered buying a piece or so…but gold isn’t really my color.

Speaking of me…

I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life and technology and progress and modernization in there somewhere.