Dubai's New Metro a Surprise Social Leveler

Rigid stratification breaks down underground, to delight of some
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2009 11:24 AM CDT
The Dubai metro.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – It may or may not alleviate massive traffic jams of Mercedes and Hummers, but Dubai's new metro system is definitely loosening up the Emirate's rigidly stratified society. “No velvet rope or electrified security gate to keep out the masses,” Tom Hundley writes. “Privileged Emiratis suddenly find themselves in the unfamiliar position of competing for rush-hour seats with their Filipina housemaids.” Shocking, he notes, because Dubai is very cosmopolitan—only 17% are Emiratis—but nationalities rarely mix.

On the metro, there’s Gold Class, for upper-crust Emiratis, and a car for women and children. But the spirit of mass transit has conspired against segregation. “Most locals seem happy enough to mix it up with the rest of us,” Hundley writes on Global Post, and he witnessed two teen girls who “wouldn’t budge” when shooed into the women’s compartment. Even the ad campaign—“My City. My Metro.”—has a distinctly egalitarian ring to it. “If that notion takes root,” Hundley writes, “Dubai will have gained something far more valuable than a shiny new train set.”