My 24 Hours in the Flooded Crypto Apocalypse of Dubai

“My bags are underwater!” the crypto bro exclaimed.

His hands were in the air, while his chrome AirPods Max headphones were still, as ever, over his ears. It only took him a second to realize the irony of his phrasing. He cracked a smile.

“But like, literally!” 

The bro, like myself and countless others, had just arrived at Dubai International Airport on Tuesday evening, expecting a quick taxi to a luxury hotel, a few Instagram stories worth of opulence, perhaps some sort of overpriced fusion meal, and a good night’s sleep before heading into Token 2049, the massive crypto industry conference.

Instead, we—some of the least street-savvy individuals on the planet, it quickly appeared—were greeted with a minor taste of apocalypse, in the form of the most devastating flood to hit Dubai in some 75 years.

As we eventually discovered, the airport tarmac had been transformed into a giant lake, and most major highways and roads in the city turned into rivers. Cars were floating away faster than they could be abandoned, and buildings were crumbling. Taxis obviously were out of the question, and the city’s public transportation infrastructure had collapsed under the strain. 

I did not get my baggage that night. I did not make it to my hotel. But I did get some glimpse at the answer to a question I’ve privately pondered on numerous occasions: How would crypto’s elite fare in a World War Z type scenario?

I had met the aforementioned bro at the airport’s metro terminal, which we had both determined to be the last path of escape from the quickly flooding airport. He’d heard there were taxis at a metro station four stops west; I’d heard rumors of cars in the east, at a station called Centrepoint.

An extremely disgruntled Irish pilot entered stage left to inform us that we were both wrong: There were no cars anywhere, and the metro was broken, stuck on an infinite loop between two stations. 

It was hard to feel optimistic at that point. But, I thought, maybe I’d found my apocalypse unit. There was me; Kyle, Decrypt and Rug Radio’s photographer; the crypto bro, who was quite affable; a quiet Emirates flight attendant; and “Angry Irish Pilot,” who I silently anointed our group’s unflinching leader. 

Our makeshift family decided to take the train west. As we boarded the metro, the crypto bro began pitching me his latest project, the details of which I cannot recall. I told him to send me details over Telegram.

Within seconds however, the escape plan was undone: service was canceled beyond the train’s first stop, which we knew would deliver us smack in the middle of a submerged neighborhood. 

As the train arrived, I panicked, unsure of what to do as hundreds of bodies squeezed off the train into yet another dead end. I spotted the Angry Irish Pilot and made a beeline for him. He was about 30% angrier than before; I hovered by him, waiting for next orders, or perhaps an inspiring speech.

He instead shot me a rather rude look, one I took to mean either, “I am not the leader you need me to be, and I have failed you,” or alternatively, “Who are you and why are you following me?”

Thankfully, before I got punched in the face, Kyle found me and firmly declared that we needed to leave the station and brave the elements. We might fail out there—but we wouldn’t waste away here, like sitting ducks. A sucker for dominance (see: my failed relationship with the Irish pilot and several ex-girlfriends), I followed him.

Back to the fake apocalypse playing out in my head: Had there been zombies, Kyle’s decision at that moment would have saved both our lives. 

For the next few hours, we weaved through the flooded streets and overpasses of Dubai—past submerged cars, damaged buildings, and urban waterways choked with motionless traffic—in search of an empty room; there was no chance we were getting across town to our hotels. Again and again, we were turned away. 

At first we carefully followed the flow of people ahead of us as they determined a path forward, like a zagging line of ants avoiding obstacles. As we plunged deeper into the city, though, that flow of people became a trickle. The flooding got worse; we took alleyways and backroads to avoid the main streets, which were at this point almost waist-deep. Often we’d hit water and have to retrace our steps backwards, until we found a safe path forward. 

Eventually, Rug Radio’s stellar operations lead Eve found us a place to stay a neighborhood away. After a climactic battle with a flooded four-way intersection just before the spot, we made it to salvation.

I entered the hotel expecting rapturous applause. The receptionist, Abdullah, was relatively unimpressed. Kyle asked him whether the condition of the streets would improve by morning. Abdullah replied, deadpan, that the water hadn’t told him yet. 

As I collapsed on a bed just after 1am, electrified by the night’s events and smelling vaguely of sewage, I decided to check in on the crypto bro. He Telegram’d me that he was back at the airport, trapped, having found no means of escape. 

I dozed off to sleep, smug, assured that Kyle and I—with some combination of luck, grit, cleverness, and determination—had found the sole path out of armageddon. 

The next morning, I woke up to several more DMs from the crypto bro. At the airport, he’d run into some guys from a DAO he was a part of, and they knew someone in Dubai with a fully lifted Range Rover. All of them were driven to their final destinations during the night. 

I scoured Twitter, disconcerted. It turned out that many Token 2049 attendees had managed to avoid the worst of the storm’s impact by paying thousands of dollars to drivers willing to risk treacherous conditions.

My apocalypse experiment had been foiled. Who knew that in the most status-obsessed city on Earth, the upper crust of an industry fueled by stature and exclusivity would manage to avoid the brunt of a supposedly equalizing disaster? 

Next time, we’ll need zombies.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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