Several decades ago, life in the UAE was simpler as residents relied on camels, their “ships of the desert” – aiding them in their search for food and water.
In 1971, the first proper road was established between Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah followed by the road that linked Dubai to Abu Dhabi that was completed in 1973. Back then – according to Filipinos who have witnessed that slice of the past in the UAE, one-way travel time used to be four hours, even on a vehicle.
Ricardo and Vivien Napenas who came to the UAE in 1988 and 1991 respectively shared to The Filipino Times that while they had their own private car back then, they also witnessed the steady growth of the public transportation sector.
“Pag dating namin dito, ang public transportation ay taxi pa lang whether within Abu Dhabi or pa Dubai ka it’s taxi. Mabuhangin pa ang mga daan noon, konti pa lang ang sementado at may aspalto.” shares Ricardo.
“Iisa lang ang kulay ng taxi noon – white and green and the taxi fare was so low. It was Dh 2 for the first flagdown and costed us less than Dh 5 to travel a distance” adds Vivien.
Virgilio Javier, a resident of the UAE since 1988, shared in a video interview with the Philippine Embassy in the UAE that he witnessed the transformation of the UAE’s roads from several roundabouts into the landscape that it is today. He said the astounding road and infrastructure development can be attributed to the forward looking vision of the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God have mercy upon him), the founding father of the United Arab Emirates.
“Dumating po ako sa Abu Dhabi na halos mapapansin ninyo na wala pang mga traffic lights at puro halos roundabouts. Mayroong pitong roundabouts going at that time. Maganda naman ang daan noon pero ngayon mas maganda po ang infrastructure na naitatag dahil sa leadership at vision ni Sheikh Zayed,” shares Javier.
Today, authorities have spearheaded numerous ground breaking projects dedicated for the implementation of mass public transport – spanning different vehicles including buses, taxis, trams, and more – that many Filipinos and expats of other nationalities use every day to get to and from their intended destinations around the country.
Hello Dubai Metro
You might not know it – but you’re riding a Guinness World Record holder as Dubai Metro’s Red Line, stretching over 52.1 kilometres, is the world’s longest driverless single metro line.
Launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai Metro was inaugurated on September 9, 2009 at 9:09:09 pm and opened its doors to the public the following day, 6:00 am on September 10.
This year marks Dubai Metro’s 10th year of successful operations within the emirate which will soon be a crucial key that links the public to the world’s biggest expo – the Dubai Expo 2020, once the line that connects at the Nakheel Harbor and Tower stations opens next year, May 2020.
Expansive bus system
Prior to the Dubai Metro, each emirate in the UAE has developed specific routes for its own bus systems that connects their residents towards several places within the city, its nearby regions, as well as routes that allow for travel between several emirates.
Abu Dhabi has its own central bus station that acts as a hub where majority of its residents gather to visit different parts of the UAE’s capital, with routes leading to major tourist spots in the city including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre, Al Marina area, Yas Island, Masdar City; regional and suburbian areas including Mussafah, Baniyas, Shahama, Khalifa City, Al Falah, Al Wathba, Al Mafraq, Al Shamka, Al Ain, Al Dhafra (Western Region); and of course, dedicated routes towards the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Inter-emirate Bus routes are also available from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and/or Sharjah and vice versa.
Riding in UAE’s waters
Apart from developing the roads for transportation, the UAE has also devised pathways on its waters and created a ferry service that takes its passengers from Dubai Marina to Al Ghubaiba and vice versa, Wajeha al Maeyah, as well as trips from the Dubai Water Canal Marine Station towards the aforementioned areas, including Al Jadaf.
Circular tourist trips of the Dubai Water Canal route are also available during Thursday evenings. Both circular routes provide amazing coastline views as well as opportunities to view local attractions from a distance. The tourist trips run for one hour, after which it returns from the place they started from. These trips are more intended for tourists and residents who plan to view the places from afar if they don’t have the luxury of time to visit.
Innovative Transport Options
Through years and years of continuous development, the UAE has now seen an influx of options that add on to the conveniences for passengers across the UAE with the introduction of ride-hailing apps like Careem in 2012.
The UAE-based company has since allowed and empowered their passengers with the ease of access of getting a ride in just a few clicks on their smartphone to take them towards their destination anywhere in the UAE without the need for cash as the app is connected to their credit/debit card already.
Safe and affordable
Two of the main reasons why many Filipinos prefer mass transportation here in the UAE are affordable fares and the assurance of safety. Dubai’s unified fare structure with its Nol card for buses and the metro splits the emirate in 7 zones – travelling within one zone costs only Dh 3, while travelling to two zones will cost Dh 5 only. Those who cross three or more zones will only pay Dh 7.5.
Abu Dhabi has its own Hafilat card for bus payments which costs Dh 2 for travel within the city, and costs Dh 2 + .05 fils per kilometer if you’re travelling in the suburbs.
In addition – all public transport systems are equipped with surveillance cameras and are safeguarded with routine checks and inspections by authorities, making sure that all of the modes of transportation are safe for its passengers and acts to safeguard against illegal activities done within the vehicle and its premises.
Of all these advancements – one major factor remains the same: Authorities continue to keep prices regulated while guaranteeing the safety of each passenger to ensure that its citizens are able to enjoy the benefits of mass transportation that the country has developed over the years as part of its ongoing journey towards the future.