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On Qatari driving 4, June 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
Tags: , ,

I realise that I am from the UK which has, statistically speaking, essentially the safest roads in the world, so my perspective may be somewhat conservatively skewed, but are the roads in Qatar not simply absurd? And do the locals not deserve the vast majority of the opprobrium for this?

Without fail every day when I’m driving around I see a Land Cruiser with a dishdasha at the wheel meandering around the road as the driver checks his phone.

Without fail every day when I’m driving around I see a Land Cruiser with a dishdasha at the wheel swerve through two or three lanes of traffic, undertaking and cutting up various other road users, accelerating aggressively only to invariably be stuck at the lights a bit further up the road.

Without fail every day when I’m driving around I see a Land Cruiser with a dishdasha at the wheel storm up behind me in my car (while I’m doing the speed limit) aggressively flashing his lights at me to move over. THE MOST INFURIATING part about this is that most of the time there’s traffic ahead of me so if I moved over, he’d still have nowhere to go. Nothing boils my blood more than this adolescent flashing behaviour. Routinely, I move back into the middle lane, as one should: I never just sit in the outside lane. If and when I get flashed now I simply slow down and resolutely refuse to move. I’m sorely tempted to get one of the flashing signs that the police in the UK have and say  ‘I would have moved at a suitable opportunity, but being as you flashed me to move over ## #### ########

Without fail every day when I’m driving around I see a Land Cruiser with a dishdasha at the wheel that cuts me up blatantly, egregiously and horrendously at a roundabout. For my own safety I use my horn to remind said driver that, well, I’m here and can’t dematerialise to nothingness. Three times this has led to the dishdasha driver quite literally and quite deliberately trying to swipe me off the road.

And without fail every day when I’m driving around I see a Land Cruiser with a dishdasha at the wheel, often with the wife in the front seat and children crawling around the car as if it were a jungle-gym. Why oh why oh why would you allow your children, your offspring, your darling babies, whom you love more than anything else in the world, to sit on your lap in the front seat or to wander around the car with no belts on? It boggles my mind. If or rather when – we are in Qatar after all – there is an accident then there is a good chance that your darling child would go through the windscreen like a spear, depositing chunks of their tiny, not-yet-hardened heads liberally around the vicinity. See this example from the Emirates.

Ma’aarifsh, as they say.



1. Crispal - 4, June 2011

It is exactly the same here, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, adding that here women are not allowed (yet) to drive and you see 15-16 years old children driving the Land Cruisers!

2. idit - 4, June 2011

Welcome to the Middle east 🙂

3. Troy Wearer - 4, June 2011

Qataris are just hillbillies with more money than taste, sense or manners. Rich enough to buy anything, they are also arrogant and stupid enough to think they ‘deserve’ it. Lived there for 2 years and never met one with a university degree…

PS – down there it’s a ‘thobe’, not a dishdasha

4. Louise Baker - 5, June 2011

It’s been the same story in the 33 plus years I spent living in the Gulf – no improvement in the driving in all that time! The worst I ever saw was a woman driving – no seatbelt of course – with a small baby on her lap AND using her mobile phone at the same time. My friend swears she has seen a woman driving and breastfeeding at the same time. Occasionally there are some funny ones; like the time one Eid when I stopped at the lights and saw 2 fattened wooly faces peering out the back window of the Toyota Corola in front of me; and the time that wily elderly Bedouin in his beaten up old Landcruiser drove (or rather ‘bounced’)straight through a fancy landscaped roundabout near the capital’s hospital at nearly 100kph – it was obviously his first time in the city! To this day, 2 of the trees on that roundabout are half the size of the others and it always maks me laugh to see them!

thegulfblog.com - 5, June 2011

When I was getting the bus to QU one morning, I remember looking sleepily out of the bus to see 8 or 9 falcons sitting serenely in this guy’s old 4×4, perched on the backs of the seats. It required a double take or three to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

5. EG - 6, June 2011

You should have seen Doha in the early 1990s when car phones came in (pre mobiles). The real sign of success was to have two, one clamped to each ear.

6. veecee - 6, June 2011

I was stunned to see a local making balloon animals whilst driving at speed along the D-ring one day. Now that’s multi-tasking. And another used to drive with his feet on the wheel whilst just peering over the dash. He was obviously keen to get a little extra sleep while heading up the North Road every morning.

7. wein weiner - 7, June 2011

there are a number of cultural issues involved but in kuwait we have the same problems. some thoughts on this traffic safety issue:

* enforcement: this, i think, is the main problem. the authorities are not serious about saving lives and so there is just a half-assed campaign every couple of years to impose order and force people to use seatbelts that quickly get forgotten.
** honorable mention: dubai, in its quest to close the gap with most of the world in terms of law and order, i have heard has had much success in being serious with offenders and hopefully this disproves that belief that you can’t change the arabs’ habits (i am an arab for full disclosure)

* culture: people believe that ‘it is written’ and so what will be will be. if it is your day to go then you can’t prevent it. hogwash i say and then scare them about the even worse prospect of being maimed or in a permanent coma, etc – surely a prospect worse than death for many.

* in properly governed countries the police put the fear of god in drivers with serious jail time (no flogging unfortunately) and hefty fines. this does have in impact that no other voluntary compliance could achieve except in the most progressive of cultures (read: japan).

at the end of the day i console myself by thinking this is natural selection in action. when will you be ‘selected’ ?

8. christophersaul - 7, June 2011

Dubai has improved over recent years, I have to say.

You do notice a big difference when you get to Abu Dhabi or, worse, Sharjah.

It’s idiotic, makes no sense and doesn’t even improve the lives of the people who drive like this – they still don’t get to Burger King any faster.

Ignoring the human aspect, I am surprised that the Gulf governments don’t crack down just a little bit, given the accidents and the jams they cause are simply bad for business.

thegulfblog.com - 8, June 2011

Interesting. One positive step that I heard about in Kuwait was that they computerized their traffic ticketing system so that someone couldn’t automatically ‘wasta’ their way out of the ticket: it was in the system.

thegulfblog.com - 8, June 2011

Believe it or not, an absolute classic Qatari screamed up behind my last night, flashing his lights furiously, left half his tyres on the road pulling out around me and pulling ahead of me again. I smiled as he gesticulated out of the window. I drove on to get petrol further down the road and the two Qataris were getting out of their Mercedez and walking into Hardees. Classic..

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