DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's inaugural Metro ride to Rashidiya last night was steeped in symbolism and served as a reminder of Dubai's resilience. "For me, it's something special, it's the start of something," the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai told a gathering of journalists in Zabeel Palace on Tuesday night, in a rare and candid discussion. "It is like when the first plane flew for Emirates and the first container ship arrived into the port."
Naysayers doubted the success of Emirates Airline, Jebel Ali port, the Palm and other projects. But each became an entry in the success story that is Dubai. Having weathered the financial crisis, Sheikh Mohammed is seeking to prove the critics wrong again with the launch of the Metro. Jebel Ali port was one of the most radical development projects of its time, and a bold move for a country yet to make its mark on the world's economic map. Many doubted it could attract enough business.
Construction on the 67 berths began in 1976, and when it was completed at the end of the decade it gave Dubai the world's largest man-made harbour and biggest port in the Middle East. Emirates grew from leased Boeing 727 jets into one of the world's top airlines, among the few that have shown a profit during the world economic crisis. No country in the world has escaped the global crisis, and the UAE's embrace of the globalised economy has spared it no less pain.
Developments have been shelved, house prices have tumbled, and many plans have been reconsidered, but the dire predictions of social and economic collapse, of ghost towns in the desert and tarnished luxury towers, have proven exaggerated. Dubai has also fought its way back. The $10 billion (US$2.7bn) Dubai bond issue has reassured investors, as did Sheikh Mohammed's comment that he remains confident that the emirate can shoulder its debt load.
"I don't think we made any mistakes," he said. "Our strategy will be really the same but things will change a little bit because of this crisis and we will be more careful now." The Metro signals a new determination in the modernisation of the city, tackling both the traffic congestion and the infrastructure needs of an expanding metropolis. "We are Bedouin people here. We live between the seaside and the desert," Sheikh Mohammed explained.
"We want people to ride horses and take the train." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org