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Chapter 6 – Metro Man

Metro Man

I woke up at about three in the morning, next day, completely disjointed. My bed appeared to be like it was a boat on the creek and swaying with the gentle waves. Sleep was thereafter difficult, and I appeared to have got a slight fever too.
I was in no mood to watch television, so I opened the window and looked into the street, three stories down. There were still a few stragglers in the street, doing whatever it was that they were doing. In another country, I would have suspected that they were drunken hobos, but in this country, drinking alcohol is illegal and carries a stiff punishment. The lights were still on in all the houses around. These houses that were shops at ground level contained heavily populated apartments or mini-factories on the other floors. In the apartment block across the road away from my hotel I could see some men still hard at work. They never seem to stop working in this block – sewing something, knitting something, cooking something. I would discover later that most of the clothes with labels telling you that they were manufactured in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh in the market around had been crafted in these busy blocks by Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi jobbers. The morning air was pleasantly warm and for about a half hour, I quietly observed the activities in the adjacent buildings and on the streets. I could finally fall asleep again near dawn.
I got myself a reluctant breakfast later in the morning at the hotel restaurant, and again returned to sleep for some more hours. Waking up later, I fortified myself with a heavy dose of multivitamins and went off to the Al Sabkha bus station to purchase a Metro card which enabled you to travel by bus and the Metro rail system. After doing this, I headed for the Dubai Museum. I was still a bit leery of the trains so I opted to do this journey by bus. I got on a bus at the Gold Souk Bus terminus, taking care to inform the driver where I was going so that he could tell me when to get off the bus. Again, this I think every tourist that didn’t want to get lost, ought to do. Surprisingly however, the bus driver dropped me off at the wrong terminus and I consequently had to walk about two hundred yards more than should have been necessary before I could find the Dubai Museum.
The museum housed a rustic brown structure known as the Al Fahidi Fort. It is said to be the oldest existing building in Dubai. The fort, I am told, is built of coral rock and mortar. It is square shaped with towers standing on three of its corners; evidently its purpose had

been to keep out desert marauders. There were two galleries at ground level, but visitors will find that most of the displays in the museum are in the underground galleries. One of these underground galleries contains an arcade of shops and a village road, reconstructed from centuries ago. The shops were occupied by life-size statues of craftsmen at work as well as vendors and purveyors. Along the village road, a carpenter, tailor, blacksmith and haberdasher plied their trades in an ambience of realistic sounds which gave the impression of a bustling souk.
The next gallery contained a depiction of desert life, with life-size mock-up of scenery which included Bedouins, camels and some other wild desert animals. The gallery after this one contained a set which showed the interaction of Dubai with the sea, with scenes and portraits of marine life, local species and the traditional seafaring equipment. Next was a gallery which featured an archaeological site, complete with tombs and an excavated skeleton which you are told, dated back to 3000BC. The last room before the gift shop contained cabinets filled with archaeological finds from various excavations around Dubai. I am always fascinated with historical relics and this last gallery I completely fell in love with. I found many of the exhibits nearly ordinary though, but then what was I expecting to see? I had to reprimand myself. A dhow, a real one stood on display near the exit by the dhow. It didn’t look so old but it validated my stubborn and surly assertion that the water craft in which I had ridden the previous night was not at all a dhow.
Done with sight-seeing at the Dubai Museum, I headed again for the Dubai Mall still by bus. It took me about thirty minutes of travel to get there. Totaling the amount I had spent so far since I hopped on the bus at the Gold Souk, it came to a meager sum of nine Dirham. Each leg of my last trip had cost me five times as much by taxi. I went immediately to the Waitrose supermarket delicatessen, again to get myself a meal which I took outside to the promenade by the fountain. The place was as usual packed with tourists like me, some attempting to take impossible full height portrait photographs of the Burj Khalifa. After my lunch was done I settled down to wait for the commencement of the musical fountain at six.
The water display did start right on schedule. It began with a slow waltz tune, the lines of water jets twirling and relaying along with the music. Gradually the tempo got stronger and so did the water jets, spinning and spurting with incredible precision and to incredible heights. The magnificent display took more than ten minutes, finally exploding into flowery sprays, which slowly collapsed into the placid water. I didn’t regret waiting to see this at all.
I chose to return to Deira by rail. Having survived London for many years, I was sure using the Metro here shouldn’t present such a huge challenge, compared with the cobweb-like network of the London underground and rail. Dubai, at this time, yet had only two lines – the Red Line and the Green Line. The first ran from Rashidiya to Jebel Ali, while the other ran from Etisalat to Creek. Both intersected at Union and Burjuman stations. Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa Metro station, like most places of interest to tourists, was located on the Red Line. I changed for the Green Line at Burjuman and finally emerged at the Al Ras Metro station, which was just a short walk to the Gold Souk and also from my hotel. Ticketing on either side of my journey had been quick and invisible. You touched your Metro card on a sensor which opened the gate either for you to enter or to exit the platform. The system is linked to a central computer which would deduct the right amount of prepaid fare from your card account. Ticketing in the buses is the same process. The Metro card works quite like the Oyster card issued by Transport for London in the UK.
The Metro stations in Dubai are quite elegant structures. The platform at Al Ras is underground like that for all the other Metro stations in Deira. They are solidly constructed in concrete and embellished with marbles, ceramics and with gilded or chromed steel. The information signs are clear and intuitive. One could see that accessibility had been of concern in the design of these stations and you could travel to and leave the platforms by stairs, escalators or vertical lifts. Like most other structures in the city, they had obviously not been built in any hurry, but with the meticulousness of a master artist. The elevated platforms at the Dubai Mall station and most other parts of the city especially on the Red Line, had similar grandness incorporated in the designs; with futuristic facades, which quite remind you of the set of a science fiction film.
Very tired and aching all over on account of the fever, I took my meal from the Afghan restaurant to my hotel. While eating my dinner, I was extremely upset to find a bedbug crawling on my bed. I hadn’t seen anything like this in more than three decades. This new discovery aggravated my fever. I imagined all the health tragedies, possible from being bitten by a bedbug. I switched on my iPad to search the internet, but was disappointed to find that no serious incident arising from such a situation had ever existed; at least nothing more serious than body rash. Nevertheless, the fever had initiated very inventive cerebration.
Do you know how bedbugs reproduce? It is a process known as traumatic insemination, or hypodermic insemination; very nasty job. What it meant was that the male stabbed the female in the abdomen with the very sharp point of its penis and therein injected his seminal fluid, which now travelled all over the abdominal cavity of the female looking for ovaries to fertilize, so that they can become laid as eggs which when hatched would produce more nasty bedbugs. The plot of a horror story was kindled. Consider what could happen if a woman got stabbed by a bedbug, and from her womb finally emerged a new race of blood-sucking mutant bedbugs, some with human heads and limbs but with bedbug bodies, some with bedbug heads and limbs but with human body. Consider what could happen if this race of mutant bedbugs, quickly multiplied, like bugs always do, and due to a sustained appetite for sucking human blood soon become a huge challenge for the continued existence of mankind. Scary, isn’t it?
I finally took some Paracetamol and went to sleep, dreaming that my bed was covered with blood-sucking bedbugs. I woke up a couple of times in the night to examine under the sheets, and even though I hadn’t found any more bedbugs, I remained utterly convinced that the bugs were there and had merely gone into hiding when they discovered I had woken up. I made a firm decision to change my hotel next morning.

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