Month: November 2008

Ejo#2 – More Crazy Driving Stories in Dubai

An ‘ejo’, for those of you who don’t know, is an abbreviation for the term ’email journal’ (this all started out as emails to friends and family).  Of course I doubt that anyone would have heard this term ever before because I just made it up (though you never know), as I hate the term ‘blog’ and I refuse to use it.


So, some more thoughts on the driving situation.  I’ve had the opportunity now that we’ve settled in and David is working during the day, to do some more vehicular exploration of the city – travelling wider distances and during different times of the day.  I’ve seen semi-trailers turn right onto a roundabout exit from the left of four lanes (when the middle lanes are still going straight).  I’ve seen a Mercedes tailgating a Toyota Yaris, beeping and flashing it’s high beams at it, whilst in the second slowest lane of a six lane highway, when all four faster lanes are empty and available.  I’ve been witness to a woman cutting in front of me from out of a side street without even looking.  And then once she’s seen the expression of bemusement on my face in her rearview mirror, I’ve seen her do some sort of obscene Arabic gesture at me.  I’ve seen yet another Mercedes overtaking everyone on the highway doing 160kph with a map of Dubai spread over the  steering wheel – and most of the windscreen as well.  And in a residential area, I’ve seen two Mercedes’ (is there a pattern emerging here?) abreast (and both of them facing me), one of them blocking my side of the road, just sitting and having a chat.  I waited about a minute, thinking surely one of them would move on and allow me through, but no.  So I beeped.  And of course their natural reaction was to beep me back, and then give me that obscene Arabic hand gesture that the National women here seem to enjoy doing.  Simply put, if you don’t have the patience of a saint, and if you don’t have eyes in the back (and preferably side) of your head, you won’t enjoy driving in Dubai.


The rules are not ‘stay in your lane’ but rather, ‘whoever is in front has right of way’.  If you are driving in the middle lane of three, it is prudent to have a system of assuming that the car either side of you is just going to move (drifting and swerving occur equally and as randomly as each other) into your lane (without indicating of course).  And that applies whether they are ahead of you, behind you or abeam you.  This leads to the local and widely seen phenomenon of having five cars abreast in a three lane road.


Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the lawlessness of the streets and am always looking out for new displays of utter madness to amaze me.  Not that I have to look very hard.  Basically a timid driver will either have a major anxiety attack or get driven off the road.  They should stick to the taxis (though that may not necessarily prevent the anxiety attacks).


Another thing you learn to do pretty quickly here is the philosophy of – Both Hands On The Horn.  There is a wonderful ritual here whereby whenever you’re stopped at a traffic light, the absolute nanosecond that it turns green (and occasionally before), every driver except the one in front (and sometimes, inexplicably, even them) beep their horn.  At first I was all like, “Oh my god/Allah, relax”, but then I realised that it’s just their way of courteously informing the car in front, “Excuse me, the traffic light has turned green now, could you please step on the accelerator and move forward”.  It happens without fail, at every single traffic light and I enjoy it so much that I’ve adapted it into my driving regimen, and I’m out there beeping like a demon.  I don’t know how I ever lived without it.  When I’m back in Australia in March and driving around, I’m sure other drivers will look at me strangely but when they do, I’ll just give them a rude  Arabic hand gesture in return!!


To be honest, I could just go on and on about the driving here but I think you’ve all probably had enough.  Next time, some ruminations about the culture and about our new apartment.  We’ve got the keys but as we spent all our furniture allowance supplementing the rent allowance, we have no furniture yet.  But that’s what credit cards are for and we should be set up hopefully by next week.


Talk to you then
Bye for now

Ejo #1 – The Adventures Of Driving Around Dubai

So Dubai is kind of a crazy place.  So far, I’m the only one that’s been driving – David says I need to get used to the crazy roads but personally I think he’s a bit scared!!!!  Teehee!!  It’s complete mayhem on the streets.  About 75% of the actual city itself is under construction so the roads that you plan on taking aren’t there – or you get diverted several km’s away and have to try to find your way back somehow.  And then you have the drivers: they don’t pay any attention to the lanes marked on the road and it’s basically a free for all with people turning left from the far right lane (across six other lanes) and other drivers just veering left and right in front of you, seemingly just for the sake of it.  It’s kind of fun – like dodgem cars.  So far no-one has actually hit us but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.


We got taken out to a huge sanddune the other day called Big Red where all the locals go on a Friday evening (it’s like their Saturday night) to bash the crap out of their 4WDs.  It was highly entertaining, and highly scary as Luke had never been duning in his new Pajero before.  Of course he got bogged just as the sun was going down and we spent about thirty minutes digging the car out.  Let me tell you, Middle Eastern sand is very fine and it gets into lots of little crevices that are not pleasant to have sand in!!!!  In the end we had to get a bunch of guys on quad bikes to help us out.  Very helpful boys – they offered to take me and Luke’s wife, Rosie, to the bottom of the dune on their bikes.  We graciously declined!!


The weather is absolutely beautiful – early to mid 30’s (about 90F) every day but it doesn’t feel unbearably hot.  Blue skies, lots of sunshine.  And this is winter!!!!


What has really struck us both is how lovely everyone is.  Everyone that we’ve encountered, from the people we’ll be working with, to the taxi drivers, to the quad bike guys, to waiters and cleaners, everyone is super polite and super nice and happy and smiling.  It creates a very nice vibe.  The streets are totally safe (we’re staying in an area that is full of ethnic people and not very many caucasian expats).  It’s kind of nice even though most of the other expats we speak to don’t like that area – it seems a lot of them just like the idea of sticking with their ‘type’.  We came here to try a different culture though and really like the area because it has a community feel to it and the food is GREAT.  Lots of Lebanese, Indian, Turkish, Pakistani food. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!


We are looking at renting an apartment in Downtown Burj Dubai (right next to the Burj which is at the moment the world’s tallest building!!  It’s a great landmark for when you get lost on those detours and traffic diversions.  We actually saw a great apartment today and are thinking of putting in an offer.  The rent here is INSANE.  Basically we are looking at the AED210,000 – 230,000 figure per annum which equates to about $100,000 Australian dollars per year in rent.  And check this out – they want it all up front in one cheque!!!!  What the…?!?!?!?!?!?!  Luckily our company pays for a lot of this and we’ll only be out of pocket a few thousand dollars but my lord, it is expensive!!!!  We want to have a nice place though for when you all come and visit us!!!!!


Tallest Building In The World


We are having an absolutely AWESOME time in Dubai and are really loving it.  We’re so happy that we took the risk and came over.  It really is very cosmopolitan with lots of restaurants and bars and there aren’t any restrictions whatsoever imposed on women.  It feels rather European actually.


PS Yay Barack Obama!!!!