Next station: Romantic railroad journeys chugging along through Abu Dhabi’s Liwa desert, Fujairah’s rugged mountains and beyond! Yes, the UAE’s on track for an epic passenger train service resembling the fabled Orient Express. And we’re sure the likeness to the glamorous train carriages (whose elegance Agatha Christie swore by) will be extremely close.
That’s because Etihad Rail has roped in luxury Italian hospitality company Arsenale to construct these elegant trains. The very same Aresenale who are part of the Orient Express’ relaunch with fabulous new trains and scenic routes.
This exciting deal between Etihad Rail and Arsenale was struck during the Middle East Rail Conference in Abu Dhabi on May 17. There’s no launch date yet, but we do know that there’ll be 15 coaches with lavish interiors reflecting Emirati heritage. Gauging by the opulent images of Arsenale’s ‘Orient Express La Dolce Vita’ set to launch in Italy, the upcoming UAE locomotives will have some loco features.
Expect plush carpets, wood-panelled walls, and elegant dining cars with food and ambience to match Michelin-starred restaurants. Imagine high-tech comforts and grandeur of a fancy hotel suite on wheels.
Golden era of rail travel
Railroad travel is seeing a resurgence across the world. While it’s a nostalgic throwback for regions like Europe, this mode of transport is just now gathering steam in the GCC where it’s new. The UAE jumped on the wagon with the Dubai Metro, trams and monorail services and a 1,200km National Railway Network completed in February 2023.
Passenger trains connecting all seven emirates to each other and Oman will roll out only in 2030. Then there’s Saudi Arabia’s luxury ‘Dream of the Desert’ trains (another Aresenale-helmed project).
You bet we’ll be daydreaming of these sophisticated new trains during our next rush-hour metro commute.