Saturday, 16 August 2008


I’m in a bit of a state of limbo at the moment. My passport is away getting my residence visa approved, which can apparently take 3 to 4 weeks. Hopefully I get it back before the month of Ramadan starts in September as apparently everything operates even slower then. The amount of bureaucracy here is quite mind boggling.

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.

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