Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dubai on four wheels

Finally I got my first taste of what its like to drive in this place even though the car that we rented was on the serious side of abused to say the least. It’s a 6 year old Nissan Sunny with horrible wheel alignment so I keep veering too the right if I’m not too careful in compensating for this dirty little snag. The breaks squeal like (not squeak) and they’re as sensitive as hell. On the upside its an automatic and we’re paying about £10 a day for the…ahem ‘privilege’ as its next to impossible to get around this city without a car.

Getting a UAE license was pretty simple given the horrendous load of bureaucracy you’ve got to go through in this part of world for anything that’s remotely official. Dad and I just had to show our UK licenses and the traffic department officials did the rest on production of some moolah (approx £17). As I’m not a resident of this country I can only get a 6-month license, Dad’s already a resident so he gets a near-permanent 10-year license, no driving test no nothing for both of us…brilliant!

Since the car’s an automatic, I don’t need to worry about shifting gears but even so I find myself reaching out with my left hand only to find out that I’m in an automatic jalopy that takes a decade to shift up a gear (plus I think the exhaust’s gone) - the steering wheel’s on the left side like the rest of the world I guess, I thought I’d have trouble staying on the right side of the road but it was fairly straightforward.

When it comes to the national pastime of driving I think this place is pretty much up there with the likes of Qatar where I grew up and any other country in the Arabian Gulf (or ‘Khaleej’ as its know in Arabic). Also you’re pretty much roadkill if you don’t drive certain models of vehicles or at the least, you’re asking to be treated like crap. So you can imagine what the driver of a banged up old Nissan Sunny must be feeling like when crawling down Sheikh Zayed road during rush hour surrounded by brand spanking new BMW 7 series’, Ford Mustangs, Toyota Land Cruisers and Range Rovers. (Sigh) Some day eh?

Ok, ok now the actual driving experience of this region goes something like this:

- Expect to get cut up, a lot!
- Don’t expect anyone to give you space to manoeuvre from lane to lane
- Don’t expect people to indicate which way they’re turning
- Expect to cuss at the crappy driving/walking of your fellow road users…
- …Don’t expect to be heard or noticed though

I knew I’d expect all this as I recognize it from when I was in Doha. It’s the kind of driving experience that you can either bravely fight against or like the 99% of everyone who settles down here ‘do what the locals do’ as I guarantee you, you will lose your sanity if you try and maintain the former!

A lot of westerners (ok white people, there I said it) live in my area and I’m constantly amazed at how ‘localized’ their driving habits have become, I really can’t tell them apart from the Emirati arabs. That reminds me of a point I don’t believe I made the last time I was in Dubai. There’s not a single local arab person on the streets, ok I exaggerated so you see one or two but that’s it! Most of the people here tend to be Indian, they should rename this county the United Indian Emirates, after all most of this country’s present wealth (be it in tourism, property or any other industry) is being generated by them! Oh well I shouldn’t complain too much seeing as I could be seen as a pretentious moron living in an upmarket residence dispensing his idle thoughts on all the wrongs of the world.

I’d rather not be seen in that light, so if a member of the Inland Revenue is reading this I am just a poor humble University student carrying out research work on the social and moral decay of the modern Middle East for my final year Journalism thesis and am not just lazing around poolside soaking up the rays and squandering the tax-payers cash. Infact I'm not squandering any money (seriously), I'm too skint and I just managed to scrape together enough for this trip.

Oh my will ya look at the time and cousin’s here to pick me up to go to the beach…to review the ills of a proposed designated nudist area of course, must dash.

(I hope to put some pics of the rental car for your amusement in the next entry, actually by British standards it could be seen as a luxury...)


Mybrid said...

I love your enteries! Keep writing. This is an entirely new world for me.

Anonymous said...

you mean "maneuver"

"gallavanting gallanda" said...

Hey what's so wrong about lazing around the poolside soaking up rays and squandering tax-payers money?? They can come join me I don't mind & I don't even mind buying the beer!