Dubai deluge: 2 years of rain in 2 days

On April 16 the desert metropolis of Dubai endured the highest volume of rainfall in 75 years. The equivalent of two years’ worth of rain poured heavily in just two days. 

In a city known globally for its opulent lifestyle, the unprecedented storm wreaked havoc. Gigantic arteries became rivers, homes were inundated and traffic stalled — including luxury cars. Commerce suffered, public transportation ceased and, in some areas, electricity faltered. Even the food supply chain was disrupted.

It was advised that everyone remain indoors. So, I complied. But as the waters began to recede, I resolved not to remain idle. Having sketched in extreme conditions such as the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion, I set out to capture some visible signs of the Dubai deluge on my sketchbook.

Standing under a freeway overpass, I sketched a section of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main highway, — still submerged four days after the storm.

At the giant Mall of the Emirates, where the ceiling of a store had collapsed during the storm, things seemed more normal. The vendor expressed relief that no one had been injured and the store had been able to reopen.

With stagnant water pervading the landscape, some urban areas resembled mangroves. I saw trees that had been uprooted by the winds while others leaned precariously.

Elsewhere in the Barsha neighborhood, I captured utility workers diligently pumping water into tank trucks while some pedestrians removed their shoes to cross the flooded streets.

Navigating the city was still a logistical challenge, as many streets and sidewalks were flooded or damaged and four subway stations were closed At the Business Bay Metro Station, a transportation agent used a bullhorn to shout directions to anxious commuters. 

Rainstorms are uncommon in the United Arab Emirates, with some being artificially induced through cloud seeding aimed to reduce water shortages. However, the Dubai deluge of 2024 arrived naturally, propelled by winds in three formidable waves. The sky had darkened gradually until it resembled evening at midday — an awe-inspiring sight.

What adds to the incredible event is that Dubai, the ultra-modern and foremost economic city of the United Arab Emirates, emerged in the early 1970s from the desert sands. Witnessing a region nestled in the Arabian Gulf being besieged by natural elements was both rare and spectacular.

Thierry Chehab
Thierry Chehab

Thierry Chehab, aka atary81, won Urban Sketchers' contest for his Beirut Port depiction. His work earned Jury's Favorite at Rendez-Vous du Carnet de Voyage. Featured in CNN, published in sketching books worldwide.

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