Dubai driving – one woman’s tale
Driving while living here, aka ‘Dubai driving’ is a scary proposition.
That is a statement not a question, and I’m sure that anyone who has been here will agree. I call it ‘Dubai driving’ as I think it is a skill unique enough to warrant its own clause. When Dubai driving, there is no such thing as indicating, merging or speed limits so it seems. I still remember my first ride home in the evening with a happy little taxi driver who I think was a frustrated formula one driver – I was actually whooping and laughing out loud as we cut people off, changed five lanes over 50 metres and tailgated innocent Dubai residents all the while beeping and flashing lights. Fun, but by no means safe!
Anyway, we had been here a few weeks and I found many days were being completely Dubai-ed by either not getting a taxi, getting lost in a taxi or just finding it mentally too exhausting to consider going downstairs to try and get a taxi. Dragging a poor little 12 month old in and out of taxis and trying to carry shopping and prams was also not working for me.
Now of course, my brain was screaming at me – “you have never driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road”, “Dubai driving? no way – you can’t do this”, “these people are crazy” and other such limiting thoughts. It didn’t take me long to tune into them and start to slowly turn them around to start saying things like “why don’t you just go down the road”, “drive around this area for a while”, “how bad can it be – you were a good driver back home”.
And then my lovely hubby said the defining comment that ended up pushing me into that car the very next day. About Dubai driving he said “You know baby, it’s much scarier being in a car you have no control of. I bet you find when you are the driver, you will be so much more confident as you can go the speed you want, break when you want and stay a safe distance from things.” Never were wiser words spoken.
So, the next morning, I psyched up for the inevitable. My mind played its usual game of “we might just stay home today”, “tomorrow will be better” and “there’s no petrol in the car – I might wait until the weekend and we can fill it up” and all sorts of other sabotaging comments. So I followed my 4 steps and identified these thoughts, classified them as unhelpful and turned them around to start saying “let’s give it a go” -add a state change moment of actually walking to the drivers door with the keys and we’re off.
So in we get…our first attempt at Dubai driving. Beautiful little Chubs decides that he would like to take this pivotal moment in mummy’s life and make it as challenging as humanly possible. He begins to scream. I don’t know if he senses mummy’s apprehension, if he’s tired, or in his usual state of hunger, but he screams like a banshee from the second we get in that car. sigh.
I plunge ahead, determined that this will not break me.
We head out onto the road and before I realise it, I am sitting in the inevitable Dubai traffic moving at approx 5 kms an hour. “This is ok” I think… “what’s so hard about driving here?” I was even able to keep shoving prunes in the little man’s mouth to try and stop him screaming in my ear!
And then it happens… I actually have to change lanes.
Now, in most places I have driven, the first thing to do is indicate that you would like to change lanes, proceed to find a space to occupy and as you begin to move over, a smooth transition can occur that doesn’t disturb the flow of traffic.
Here, however, there seems to be a couple of unwritten rules for Dubai driving:
1. If you are driving an excessively large white 4WD with blacked out windows, you are not at liberty to allow anyone to merge in front of you (but you feel free to pull in wherever you want)
2. If there is a space in front of you that someone could potentially merge into, you MUST fill that space as quickly as possible, all the while beeping your horn
3. If you are a taxi, just do whatever the hell you want…
Of course, on this first expedition, I had not fully understood nor been versed in these rules but let me tell you, it doesn’t take long to learn!
So, here I am, a slightly nervous but very proud Aussie mum, braving the Dubai roads on a daily basis and before I know it, I am beeping and merging like a pro. This morning, I even felt like a local when I had to quickly cut across 4 lanes of traffic to take an exit before I missed it (something for another day on how hard it is to get back on track here if you miss a turn), and I managed to do it all without hearing one beep!
I am still however a very firm believer in karma, and so, wherever possible, I do what I can to let people in, I still indicate when turning and I try to leave some space between me and the next car while driving over 120kms/hour (which is definitely an exception to the norm). I figure, if I keep sending out these positive Dubai driving vibes, other people might join me and one day, this might be a safer place to be out on the roads with our kids. Give it a go if you haven’t already, as Dubai driving really doesn’t have to be that scary and together, maybe we can make things better 🙂
I would love to hear any comments/stories anyone wants to share on other driving experiences here… drop me a line or add a comment if you have time.
Stay safe everyone.. till next time!