For the past few weeks, Sophia Mendoza has been seeing the blue and white trains of Dubai Metro zipping past above Sheikh Zayed Road on its test drives. This has become a common sight on her way from Deira, where she resides, to her office in Dubai Media City (DMC).
And every time she sights the trains whishing past on the steel and glass façade of Metro stations, it is difficult for her to hide her excitement. "I have been waiting very eagerly for the Metro to start," she says. "It will be a great relief for me. Commuting from Deira to DMC every working day is a very stressful affair for me. The drive of about an hour along congested traffic absolutely wears me out by the time I reach my office."
People like Sophia and many others have been waiting with bated breathe for the Dubai Metro to start operating. The impact of the Metro on the city's residents and visitors in terms of travelling habits and mobility will be diverse and many-fold. It will drastically change the way people live and go about their daily lives.
The Dubai Metro -- with its fully automated, driverless trains -- is among the most sophisticated in the world. A first for the Middle East, it is a massive project with an initial budget of Dhs 15.5b which then rose to Dhs 28bn "because of some additionals," as put by Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
With a total of 44 trains plying 70 kilometres of railway track, Dubai Metro is expected to carry over 1.2 million passengers on an average day.
With ticket prices set to be amongst the lowest in the world (only next to Tehran's, in the region), many are looking forward to ride the Metro quite often.
But unlike Sophia who will be using the Metro on a daily basis to commute to her work place and back, Mohini Rajan, a housewife, plans to use it to discover Dubai.
Mohini, who came to Dubai six months ago, says: "I have yet to discover Dubai. I have heard so much about this place but haven't yet visited many of its attractions. I don't have a car and hiring a taxi is quite expensive. Moreover, the public transport in Dubai is not as efficient as in other places."
Mohini, who stays in Discovery Gardens and has a station hardly a kilometre away from her home, is excited that the Metro would give her a chance to explore the city.
Panorama looks into what to explore in Dubai travelling on Metro.
Starting from Jebel Ali Free Zone, the first place to explore is "New Dubai."
One can get down at the Nakheel Harbour and Tower station (one of the 10 stations opening on Sept.9) to explore the Ibn Battuta Mall -- said to be the world's largest themed shopping mall. Split up into well-decorated courts of Andalusia, Tunisia, India, Egypt and China, this mall is not just a shopper's paradise but also a haven for food lovers.
Next on the line is the Dubai Marina station. It will give a chance to explore the numerous shopping attractions which dot the vicinity. The Marina Walk, which is a 10-minute walk away from the station, is already a hot favourite among residents living there with its dozens of restaurants, offering everything from fantastic grills, Seafood, Thai, Japanese or Indian Cuisine, all alongside trendy coffee shops, spas and beauty salons. Come winter, and the Walk becomes a lively place with its open-air Friday market where one can find all sorts of products from ornaments to clothing, and jewellery to painting.
The recently opened Dubai Marina Mall is another major attraction near this station.
The best way to take a look at different areas of the Marina is by using feeder bus number F37, one of the 787 buses that will carry passengers to and from Dubai Metro stations and the communities around them.
The next stop is the Mall of the Emirates (MoE) station. The best way to access MoE is by using the air-conditioned walkway that leads Metro travellers directly to the mall. MoE, one of the biggest attractions of Dubai, includes the largest indoor family entertainment centre in the country and the largest indoor ski dome in the world.
Apart from over 400 retail outlets, which include practically every household brand name one can think of, there are over 70 restaurants where you will be spoilt for choice.
Next stop is Al Quoz Station. A short trip from the station using feeder bus number F25 takes you to the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel and the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, the latter known for its high-quality products and vivacious, colourful ambience. A splendid combination of authentic Arabian style and modern landscaping, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a must-see in Dubai.
Al Quoz is also a place for art lovers. Numerous art galleries such as Third Line and Total gallery dot the area.
The next interesting point to get down would be the Burj Dubai Metro station. Though one can get a glimpse of Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world from anywhere in Dubai, taking a closer look is an entirely different experience. At the base of Burj Dubai is the famed Dubai Mall whose expanse has to be seen to be believed. It includes a staggering 1,200 retail outlets, ensuring that you find everything you could possibly want.
This mall is not just a shopaholic's paradise -- the entertainment on offer is also interesting. It includes the fantastic Dubai Aquarium, one of the world's largest indoor aquariums that houses an incredible 33,000 inhabitants representing 85 different species of aquatic animals.
As the Metro leaves behind the five-star hotel wonderland of Sheikh Zayed Road, it approaches the Karama/Burjuman Center station. If you are tired of visiting the malls that Dubai is famous for, you can visit to the nearby Dubai Museum. The museum, located inside a 19th century fort, has two parts -- a military museum and a history museum, the latter featuring life-size dioramas on the different souks that make Dubai famous, explaining the history of the trades practiced here.
One could also take a trip to the much renowned Bastakia Quarter, located just 1.2 km away from the Metro Station. This area dates back to the early 1900s. It is an important element in the history, architecture and urban development of Dubai. It has always fascinated visitors with its elegant wind-towers, gypsum decorations, woodwork and the lanes meandering through the district.
Other places of interest are the Al Fahidi Fort, Dhow Wharves, Shaikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House, Dubai Diving Village, Wonderland, Dubai International Arts Centre and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
This place, sprinkled with jewellery and fabrics shops, is also a gold mine of great restaurants. Also known as Dubai's "curry corridor," the area offers fascinating Indian food.
As you cross Dubai Creek on the Metro you get into the Deira area. One can get down at Union Square or Al Rigga station and visit the exotic Deira Gold Souk or the Spice Souk. Located in the area of Old Deira, this place is undoubtedly one of the main tourist attractions of Dubai. While the Gold Souk houses streets lined with innumerable shops selling gold jewellery, the narrow lanes of the Spice Souk filled with the aroma of cloves, cinnamons, cardamoms and dried fruits captivate your senses.
Alighting at Rashidiya Station (the last in the row), one can take a feeder bus to Sharjah -- the cultural capital of the Arab World -- and explore places such as the Al Qasba, the Blue Souq, the Sharjah Aquarium and the Sharjah Maritime Museum. One could also relax on the Sharjah Corniche, watching life idly go by.
Article by: Panorama
Posted on: 08/09/09