UAE then and now: how Dubai Metro transformed life in the emirate

Use our interactive slider and scroll through the picture gallery to explore the birth of a new era for public transport in Dubai

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Latest: Dubai advertises contracts to extend metro lines by more than 20km

On September 9, 2009, the first Dubai Metro trains rolled down the tracks from Nakheel Harbour and Tower station on their way to Rashidiya.

It was the Arabian Peninsula's first urban train network and, delivered during a global recession, was a statement of intent from Dubai.

Construction started in 2006 and the trains were being put through their paces in a series of test runs only two years later.

In the older photograph from 2008, we can see construction of the Red Line – by then, at a well-advanced stage – adjacent to Sheikh Zayed Road.

Taken close to the entrance of Emirates Golf Club, the distinctive concrete viaducts that support the trains are in place. A year after this photograph was taken, the Red Line was operational.

When The National’s Chris Whiteoak returned to shoot the same scene again last year, further construction had left the entrance to the golf club obscured while scores of new tower blocks could be seen in the background.

Thirteen years on from that first train, the Metro’s driverless carriages have transformed public transport while its stations and concrete viaducts have become part of the urban fabric of the city.

The Metro has also extended the Red line to allow direct access to the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

And there are potential plans to expand the lines by more than 20km.

On its 10-year anniversary in 2019, the emirate's Roads and Transport Authority said the Metro served “about 650,000 commuters daily”.

It has become an indispensable part of life for residents and tourists. And ticket prices start at Dh3, ensuring it remains accessible for all.

A version of this article first appeared in November 2021.

Updated: October 05, 2022, 10:46 AM