Watching people watching you

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Written for Read, the Dubai Metro newspaper. Picture courtesy @JoeAkkawi. 

The Metro has been a boon for ferrying masses of people from one end of the city to the other. Destinations along the Sheikh Zayed Road, once a nightmare of tight parking and competitive honking, have become convenient to the point that one can pull on a pair of pyjamas, stick a NOL card into the waistband, and head off. There’s other value to the Metro: it offers a slice of fashion trends as it passes through Dubai. You realize how the fashion scape inside the compartments change as you head away from the centre of the city to the newer southbound developments. Emblems on shirts get larger, and collars get more popped.

There are always a few regulars on any given journey. For instance, the gentleman in the polo shirt and the wrap around Oakley shades. You can’t ever meet his eye, and so spend the entire time wondering whether he’s looking to see if you’re looking to see if he’s looking at you.

There’s usually the smartly dressed corporate man or woman, sometimes with a Kindle as an accessory. London’s tube might merit books - but Dubai likes its gadgetry. Why carry around dead trees when a thin plastic sleeve holds thousands of novels and autobiographies?

Tourists are always easily identifiable in their shorts and loose t-shirts. They’re dressed not to impress, but to combat the heat. Then there’s always at least one quirky passenger with an awesome head of cornrows or bracelets galore. People embark, people get off, and the fashion scene changes by the minute.

People watching on the Metro is my new favourite activity. It’s not just transport, but shared space where we can all be us.