Monday, 25 August 2008
Saturday, 23 August 2008
I think I mentioned before how cheap UAE taxis were when compared to those in the UK. I am now forming the opinion that you get exactly what you pay for.
Firstly a bit of background information:
- There are three Emirates adjoining each other. Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman
- Dubai is expensive to live in and more fun
- Sharjah is cheaper to live in and deadly dull
- Ajman is furthest from Dubai
- The traffic between Sharjah and Dubai is horrendous.
- Taxis from one emirate are not permitted to collect fares in a neighboring one.
- Taxi’s regularly refuse to take you to a neighboring emirate as they get stuck in traffic returning to their home Emirate.
- Taxi drivers are poorly paid and often don’t speak English or Arabic.
Today I wanted to travel to several locations to look at possible accommodation, so a very lucrative fare was in the offing.
I queued patiently outside the local Mall and eventually got to the front of the queue. The first driver point blank refused to take me to anywhere in Dubai, ‘feigning’ being unable to understand English. I’ve now learnt that the best way is to get in, make small talk about the heat and only give directions once under way. I managed this on my second attempt although this time the driver really didn’t know where he was going and spoke rudimentary English at best.
I decided that I needed another driver, so got dropped off at a Mall in Dubai and was fortunate to find a Dubai taxi driver that could speak reasonable English so I decided to use him for the rest of the journey. We did well together and travelled around for nearly three hours Mirdif, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lake Towers and finally Ajman.
My very last port of call was the Hole in the Wall in Ajman, a liquor outlet for non-Muslim expats. While I was inside shopping, my driver was outside being harassed by a local Ajman taxi driver who was threatening my driver for collecting a fare in Ajman even though the meter was still running. He seemed like a nasty piece of work so I decided it would be best to simply pay off my original driver and take my chances and get a ride back with him.
Ajman taxis are not metered and you have to negotiate a fare. I only realized this once travelling but he said, “Not to worry”. I knew the last I’d had a metered fare to Ajman, it was about 20 Dh which is what I’d planned on paying him, he demanded 35 Dh. I didn’t want any trouble seeing as I was in the process of lugging alcohol around a dry emirate, so I paid up. He knew that too!
At least I have a few Heinekens to calm me down now. The sooner I get my visa sorted, get my own wheels and move to Dubai the better.
P.S. (The househunting was disappointing too.. you dont get a lot for your money in Dubai!)
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
1 = like a one
2 = backward seven
3 = backward seven with a squiggly top line
4 = backward three squiggle
5 = tear drop (this would be by favorite shape of number)
6 = like a lazily drawn seven
7 = like a fancy V
8 = like an inverted fancy V
9 = just like an squiggly nine
0 = like a big full stop in the middle of the line
What seems odd to me, and nobody has yet been able to properly explain this, unlike Arabic text which is written from right to left, numbers when written in Arabic, are written from left to right. How did that happen?
The Greeks had a number system, but didn't understand the concept of 0. It was the Persians who gave the world 0. So how come their numeric system is opposite to the way of writing?
The Arabic character for 2 and the Arabic character for 3 seem very similar to me, so I'm going to be taking particular care when I check my finances.
As someone who has a bit of a lisp, I should get on fine here. There is apparently no true 'S' sound in Arabic.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
In Sharjah, with street names like "Sheik Khalid Bin Khalid Al Qassimi Street" and "Abdullah Salem Al Sabeth Street" and "Sheik Rashid Bin Saqr Al Qassim Street" you can imagine it's not easy addressing letters or giving directions. Most streets are suffixed with numbers as well although the writing on the signs is so small trying to fit the names on, it's virtually impossible to read, especially when driving past at 50 km/h.
I suspect this may be the cause a few of the frequent accidents. while craning your neck to read the street name you've just driven past.. oops sorry mate, I didn't see you.
Dubai seem to have given up on street names completely, particularly for suburban streets, they are simply numbered 33rd St, 33B St, 69C St etc. Odd streets run in one direction, even streets at 90 degrees to the odds.
Before arriving in the UAE I'd seen that cars are sold as either American Specs or Gulf Specs. I assumed that Gulf Specs meant diamond studded gear knob and gold plated dashboard. In reality I think it means a bigger air con, and radiator and an industrial strength hooter. I've never heard so much hooting, often for what seems like no apparent reason.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Because I’m working here I can’t hire a car with my international license, I have to get a UAE license (which is a straight forward issue if you have a UK license). However I can only get my UAE driving license when I get my passport back. I also can’t rent property, or (horror of horrors) get my alcohol license, until I get my passport back. So everything pretty much revolves around me getting my visa back. I’ve been told that I can pay 500 dirham’s to get my visa fast tracked, which will speed it up the final process from 10 days to 8 days. It hardly seems worth it.
Fortunately compared to the uk, taxi's are relatively cheap. Last weekend I hired a taxt and we drove around Sharjah, Ajman and all the way up the coast to Umm al-Qwainn. It took nearly 3 hours and the fare was about the same as my usual trip home in the UK.
This weekend I've been touring Dubai. I eventually found a taxi driver who had a reasonable grasp of English and got him to take me on a grand tour of potential living locations. Although it has been a bit of a white knuckle ride at times, he has tried very hard to point out all the significant landmarks to me and advised me on the type of clientelle he's collected and deposited in each district.
I went down as far as the Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeriah, which is about 40km from work and very nice, but I don't think I'd be able to afford anywhere with a half decent view, and without a view the travel isn't really worth it, so I'll probably stick to something a bit closer to Sharjah. Mirdif is looking quite appealing. Smaller buildings (2/3 story) in a relatively new clean and tidy suburb. I'll have to see what's available when I get my documents back?
After two weeks here I’m starting to get a better feel for the place. It is one huge construction site. The scale of the construction is mind boggling, I just can’t imagine who’s going to live and work in all of these buildings, but most of them are sold off plan. Unfortunately I've not been taking photo's, I will when I get my own transport.
During our travels, my taxi driver, and now self appointed unofficial tour guide asked if he could have a 5 minute prayer break, so I arranged for him to drop me off at the Jumeriah Beach Hotel and I had a beer at the pool while he went off to the local mosque for a prayer. We both felt a lot better and more relaxed after our respective rituals. It's coming up for Ramadan in September so he explained that he's starting to be extra good about his prayer times. I explained to him that I was good all year, and not just for the month of Ramadan, but I don't think he believed me.
The traffic between Sharjah and Dubai can be an absolute nightmare and the taxi's often refuse to take you to Dubai from Sharjah or vice versa. I've learnt the trick to get in the cab, make small talk and only announce your final destination once in motion. I do have some sympathy for them as they are not allowed to collect fares in the neighbouring emirate so it can waste an hour of their time just getting back to where they can operate. They probably need a central rank on the border where you could change taxi's. This will all become immaterial once I move to Dubai. I'd hate to know what a Dubai Taxi driver would do if he was asked to go all the way to Ajman.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Unfortunately I only got as far as Frankfurt and the connecting flight was cancelled. I'm afraid I cannot recommend Frankfurt airport as a suitable place to kill 12 hours. I was so bored with wandering around I checked in as soon as I could to get to see what was on airside in Terminal 2 - answer, nothing. You couldn't spend a cent!
Anyway, I finally arrived in Dubai 24 hours later at daybreak, after a sleepless flight. My neighbour insisted on poking me in the ribs continuously throughout the flight. I was quite surprised that even though it was quite overcast when we arrived, it was still 32 degrees and very humid - at 6am.