In the desert emirate of Abu Dhabi, Ibrahim al-Hammadi inspects a freight train on the UAE’s first railway line. He climbs aboard the locomotive, does a final systems check and then it’s full steam ahead.
Hammadi is the first Emirati to serve as a train driver in a country that has a space program and two of the nation’s biggest airlines but is only now building a rail network to connect all seven of its emirates.
“I was intrigued when I saw the train operating,” the 23-year-old told AFP. “It was something new, and it pushed me to ask around about learning how to drive it.”
The United Arab Emirates is known for its audacious infrastructure and technology initiatives. It just dispatched a rover to Mars and plans to build the world’s first ultrafast hyperloop system to connect its two major cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
When completed, Etihad Rail will operate 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of track connecting all of the emirates — from Ghweifat in the western region of Abu Dhabi to the emirate of Fujairah on the eastern coast — and link with neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The long-term goal is to connect all six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
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