To me, public transport represents freedom. In Trinidad I sadly never took any kind of public transport because, well, there simply weren’t many options, the majority of taxis are unlicensed, and everyone owned a car. This is why I truly enjoyed the freedom of life in Tokyo and Hong Kong, where the trains can get you everywhere. You never need to worry about traffic accidents, about filling up the gas, finding a parking space, or about getting lost on highways. Public transport is the way to go.
The Dubai Metro system is, in a word, amazing. Spanking new, it opened barely two years ago so still looks all clean and shiny and fresh. It runs parallel to the beach and connects the city from east to west. The stations even have toilets! Really nice, clean and functioning toilets that look like a hotel lobby. I like this because the Hong Kong train stations never had toilets, which always perplexed me because what are you supposed to do in times of need? But, it looks like in Dubai they have really done a fantastic job of building a state-of-the-line transit system and I am very glad to have it.
There are two things that I find really interesting about the metro:
Gold Class — On every train, there is one cabin called Gold Class, a nicer, fancier, roomier cabin with bigger seats. It costs more to sit in this compartment and you need to have the right card or else they boot you out. I hardly ever see a lot of people in the Gold cabin and I suppose it appeals to those who can’t bear the thought of sharing their space with all the proletariat from a million other countries. Another friend told me it is very useful during rush hour where the train is jam packed.
Women and Children — My favourite, a women-only car in which men are strictly not allowed. Primarily designed for Muslim women, but used by women of all backgrounds. This testosterone-free haven is right next to the Gold cabin, so every time the train stops and people get on and off, the cabin attendant pokes her head through the door to do what I call ‘Penis Patrol’ — a quick check to make sure no men have tried to stand in the Ladies car.
See, in Dubai you tend to get people (guys) looking at you a lot in curiosity. The local Emirati women wear Islamic dress when they go out in public, so foreign women tend to stand out a lot because I suppose in comparison we show off a lot of skin. Couple this with the fact that you have a lot of workers who come from neighboring nations in the Middle East and India who perhaps have never seen so many women in Western dress, so they can’t help but look. I don’t take offense to it, but if I can I’ll go in the Ladies car, especially if I am travelling alone. To me it feels like a little oasis, a girls’ club, a protective zone where you finally you have the right to say ‘get the hell out of here!’ to a man. Once in a while a guy gets on by accident and then looks around and realises that one of these things is not like the other, and quickly makes his exit. Or, someone tells him he can’t be here.
There is actually no barrier between the other car and the Ladies car and they are directly connected, so what is pretty funny about the whole thing is that sometimes guys try to hang out in the little space between the two cars where they can take a curious peek at the ladies inside. The women usually give them dirty looks and they go away, or the cabin attendant goes and tells them to piss off. I don’t really get why the guys want to look into the ladies car… after all, when we get out of the car and into the station we are all dressed the same way as we were inside the car, so why not just look at the women once they get out? Who knows. Maybe the temptation is just too much!
By the way, if this all sounds weird to you, before you start thinking this is just a Dubai thing or a Muslim thing, don’t forget that in Tokyo there are also Ladies Only cars, sometimes as many as three or four per train, because of the high number of groping incidents that take place during rush hour when millions of people pack into the trains tightly together. In fact you are probably more likely to get groped in Tokyo than in Dubai!