Craig N. Dolder, Ph. D. Acoustics

7 Quick Takes On Dubai

— 1 —

The most posh light rail I’ve experienced.

One of the shiny Dubai Metro stations with track running off into the distance.

One of the shiny Dubai Metro stations with track running off into the distance.

Unfortunately taking pictures of public transit in many countries can land you in jail so I do not have a lot of pictures from the Dubai Metro. Each train has a car and a half reserved for women and families and a first class car. It’s hard to imagine the Subway, Tube, or Metro in any other city having a first class car on every train. The Metro connects to Terminals 1 and 3 or the Dubai International Airport. Unfortunately for me, I flew into Terminal 2, which is used by the economy airlines. Terminal 2 also has no easy public transit options, so I opted to take a bus!

— 2 —

My Dubai bus experience

The challenges of taking buses comes down to three elements, taking the right bus, paying, and getting off at the right place. The first element is easy in cities where Google transit works, fortunately Dubai is one for those cities an only failed me slightly. The second can usually be answered by asking around. In most cities there is a more expensive option for tourists which is less likely to cause frustration or cause one to go amiss and I’ve found people at airport information booths are very insistent you take that option. Usually they eventually give up and will help with public transit. The third is solved perfectly by the modern GPS enabled phone, yes mine is very much a cruch for me.

I was directed to the arrivals terminal to get a public transit pass. It wasn’t a long walk, but with my bags and the oppressive heat I was soaked before getting there. The lady at the money exchange booth gladly sold me the smart public transit card (pictured below). It operates much like any other system (Charlie Card, Delhi Travel Card, Oyster Card).

Having obtained proper payment I waited for the bus of the appropriate number at the appropriate time. It came and I got on. About 5 minutes later I felt it was going the wrong way. I verified that on my smartphone and told myself there must just be a detour in the route. 15 minutes later it was still headed in the exact opposite direction than that I wished to travel in. It turns out it was a linear route and I got on in the middle headed the wrong way. On the up side I was in no rush (I only get to the hotel 1.5 hours later than I would have otherwise) and I got a tour of a side of Dubai others don’t usually see.

The most fascinating part of the journey was the buildings. As I got further from the epic center of Dubai the buildings became more normal. Most could have been in any Western city aside from the signage in both Arabic and English. Despite that even at the edge of the city every sixth building had extravagant modern architecture. These building seemed greatly out of place, though they would have fit right in downtown, except for the fact they were only one or two stories.

Public transit cards from various cities. Top to bottom: New Delhi, Dubai, London

Public transit cards from various cities. Top to bottom: New Delhi, Dubai, London

— 3 —

The Megamalls, in general.

The malls in Dubai are absolutely immense and I can find no adequate comparison. They have all the premium shops from around the word. Do you like coffee? Well at the Mall of the Emerates you have a selection of: iHop (Unlimited carafe style), Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Seattle’s Best, Krispy Kreme, and yes, Dubai runs on Dunkins. I probably missed a few.

In that same mall there was also a Poutine restaurant, all the hippest fashion stores, a movie theater, a massive arcade, and a ski mountain. The arcade offered all the games I could imagine and some I couldn’t. It had an electronic beer pong table “Sink It!”, bumper cars, a robo coaster, rock gym, bowling alley, carousel, you know, all the typical attractions you find at the corner arcade. The ski mountain offered skiing, snow boarding, tubing, zip lining, and a penguin encounter. The crowd varied from skimpy outfits you would expect in Paris to flowing formal Saudi robes and included some odd fusion. One such occasion was a man wearing the traditional UAE white robes and a baseball cap, which caused me modicum of cognitive dissonance.

If that first mall isn’t good enough for you, there is always the nearby Dubai Mall with an ice skating rink, an aquarium, and the tallest building in the world.


— 4 —

The stores in the Megamalls.

In each of these stores is an excess of smiling employees wanting to help make your shopping experience as pleasant as possible. Truly, getting to the other side of the store without crossing paths with an employee eager to help you is difficult. It is unreal, pretty much like the rest of Dubai.

— 5 —

 The side of Dubai you try not to see.

While enjoying the air conditioned walkways and transit you are constantly presented with a view of shiny skyscrapers in all stages of construction. You don’t want to see the construction crews outside in the unbearable heat with their blue jumpsuits. I can’t go in depth about their situation, but this article can:

To summarize:

  • If you go into debt you are put in jail and can’t leave the country until all debts are repaid.
  • Manual laborers have their passports taken from them and are denied consular access.
  • If anyone speaks out about the government or its dictator they are jailed and they and their family are blacklisted so they cannot leave the country or get select jobs.
  • Over 1000 laborers die of heat related health problems every year.

— 6 —

 The streets smell of new rubber and the malls of perfume.

That’s pretty much it. Everything smells like a new toy or a flower and everything is kept shiny and spotless.


The surreal mix of beautiful towers and construction in Dubai.

— 7 —

I don’t see how it can last and certainly don’t think it should be supported.

Dubai is a prime example of excess that is unsustainable. It is run by a ruthless dictator with an effectively enslaved labor force. The only thing it has going for it is that it is very pretty. While it looks like the ideal metropolis on face value it could not be further from one.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

One thought on “7 Quick Takes On Dubai

  1. Lindsay

    It’s so sad that such beauty is underscored by such horror. Sure, we have problems here in the U.S., but it’s easy to miss them or think that everyone in the world lives like we do, or even that the image presented to tourists is what life is really like.

    Oh, and where have you been where there’s an arcade on the corner? What corner is this? And why would anyone outside of college willingly play beer pong?

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