Riding on the Metro

The length of Dubai, Dubai, UAE


I wanted to document the experience of riding on the metro in Dubai because I found it to be the biggest melting pot experience there. First of all, there are all female cars. I actually quite enjoyed this, a little respit from the stares of our male counterparts. When a man got on, accidentally or otherwise, he was greeted with scowls at best, an embarrassing and not so nice announcement of the female only status by an irritated woman at worst.

The metro car in Dubai was the only place in the Middle East I encountered where blonde Westerners wearing tank tops and/or short skirts were jammed in among Hijabs, Sari's, and the like. It was a place where there were usually pretty equal parts Emirati, Indian, Phillipino, and Caucasian. I really liked watching this forced interaction, and seeing how people were with each other. I saw a lot of kindness between races, and a lot of ignoring one another too.

Once I had to stand the entire length of the line, about an hour or so, and had some Phillipino ladies almost frantically trying to find a place for me to sit. It's times like that that you feel the unspoken social class system that operates there. You are sharing a mode of transportation with the women who are used to "serving you" in public, and there is a certain amount of discomfort about it. Meaning, I was perfectly fine standing but these women could barely handle it, though they themselves were standing. It's just different because we are all together in one small space, from all sides of society.

I realize that really, this is the same the world over, but for some reason it stuck out to me more in Dubai. Maybe it was because there are, from what I saw anyways, four big racial categories, and each seem to have a more defined role than what I am used to in the San Francisco Bay area where there are people from all over the world working in all sorts of professions. In Dubai, there are mainly locals (Emiratis), "workers" (Indian and Phillipino) and "other" (Western professionals and tourists). I feel awkward making it that simple, but it really was the case.

The metro car is where everyone comes together. I guess that is the point. And I love a good melting pot, and watching people squirm or embrace. And making everyone feel more awkward by taking photos.