Top 10 things…I won’t miss about the UAE.

Though the UAE has been a wonderful experience there are some things I’m am looking forward to being without.  After I made this list I realized that the majority of my dislikes are traffic related.  I’m sure there are a few other things I could add to this list, but these ones definitely popped into my head first.

#10 – Fast lane Honkers/blinkers

These are the people who come up on your bumper out of nowhere.  I’m pretty sure the reason they blink their high beams is because you can’t see them otherwise.  They are so close to your bumper that you don’t even realize there is a car behind you unless they honk or blink or pull onto the shoulder to pass you at 140km/hr.

#9 – ‘Magic Parking Spaces’ a.k.a. 4-way Flashers

Just when you were worried about finding a parking spot one magically appears with a press of the magical red triangle button on your dashboard.  Otherwise known as your hazard lights, or 4-way flashers.  Everyone here knows this trick and uses it, constantly, in the most inconvenient (for everyone else) place.  Trapped in the morning school rush and can’t find a parking spot, no problem, you don’t need to pull your vehicle off to the side of the road (or even out of the way) by pressing that little magic button – POOF- magic parking spot.  Heading out on the town and all the parking stalls are full, no problem, pull up behind any vehicle and press the button – BAM- magic parking spot.

#8 – ‘Gold Lane’ drivers

We’re all familiar with that yellow line on the far left and right side of the road.  I always thought of it as a barrier, and sign to tell me I needed to drive my vehicle between those lines.  Apparently it has an entirely different meaning over here.  These yellow lines indicate the ‘Gold’ lane.  These lanes are for the impatient, ‘important’, entitled drivers that can’t understand why you’re following the laws of the road, driving the posted maximum speed limit and clogging up the road.  Kind of like the carpool lane for people who aren’t concerned with the safety of the other drivers on the road.

#7 – Bumper Babies

This is closely related to the #10 point on this list.  Except these guys don’t give you any indication that they are back there.  One minute there is no one behind you, and the next you can count the nose hairs of the driver directly behind you.  These guys sway back and forth, looking for an opportunity to squeeze by you, sometimes taking advantage of the ‘Gold’ lane.  These are also the guys that won’t let you in front of them when you’re trying to merge lanes as they ride the bumper of the guy you’re trying to get behind.  You could have your blinker on forever, and just when it looks like they’re going to let you in they speed up (swerving around you) to get back to the bumper they were previously suckling.  If you do manage to get in front of one of these guys they are unforgiving.  The next chance you get expect the daggers of guilt they fire your way from stealing their precious bumper.

#6 – Morning School Run

In Sharjah someone came up with the brilliant idea to zone the private school district.  Sounds like a great idea right!  Put all the private schools in one area.  That way you don’t have the buses clogging up other areas of the emirate, parents that drive their kids can easily find their school…um, yeah, wait … how is that a good thing.  Let me count the schools in our area for you.  1, 2, 3…13.  Those are only the ones that show up on Google Maps.  There are at least 3 others I know of that aren’t on the map.  All within a 1km radius.  I leave our house an hour before school starts so that it only takes me 10-15 min to get to the kids school.  If we’re even 5 minutes late in leaving the house, it could take us 30-45 min to cover the same distance.

#5 – U-turns

Left hand turns are rare here.  So getting around involves at least a U-turn or 4.  Sometimes if you miss your exit it could mean adding more u-turns.  The not so great thing about u-turns is that they are also rare, though not as rare as being able to make a left handed turn.  This means that km’s and time can be added in frustration to a seemingly straight forward line of direction if any mistakes are made.  As a result, it is not abnormal to see people driving in reverse down the road to missed exits, even the ‘Gold’ lane of major roadways.

#4 – Non-blinkers

We get these types in Canada too, but they’re some how … nicer about it.  I think this stems from the amount of ‘Bumper Babies’ there are on the road.  They rationalize not blinking as being ‘ninja like’, a sneaky way to lane change.  Sometimes Bumper Babies get distracted, and slow down leaving enough space to jump in front of them.  There isn’t always time to blink.  Still.  Annoying.  Similar to Bumper Babies is their ability to come out of nowhere.  One minute everyone is in their own lane, moving along peacefully, and the next they’re practically side swiping you in a slow motion (or not so slow) left hook, pushing you out of the way.

#3 – Awkward long stares

As a woman this is weird and unsettling.  When I stare someone down it’s usually because there is something familiar about them and I’m trying to figure out if I know them.  So when someone is staring me down I look back, let them get a good look at my face and wait for the realization to wash over them that we don’t know each other and should then take the next step in our awkward acquaintance.  Which is to look away, or smile and wave.  More often than not, neither of these things happens.  Resulting in an unnerving feeling of violation.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’m Canadian, but I feel like I wasn’t polite enough and that drives me batty.

#2 – +50C

I didn’t think it was possible to survive in heat like this.  Now that I am on my second cycle of +50C temps I’m wondering how I’m going to survive anything below +20C.  If you want to know what I’m talking about there are a number of ways to accurately feel what it’s like to live in the desert.  First, turn on your hairdryer to it’s hottest setting, low blow, then point it directly in your face – ahh, can you feel the sand?  The second scenario that I think gives the best example of the heat with humidity factor we’re actually getting now is akin to what you feel in the adult sauna at your local pool.  Try walking around, fully covered (shoulders to knees) – yah, so relaxing 🙂

#1 – Speed ‘Humps’

Humps.  That’s what they call them here.  Something to do with camels maybe?  Anyhow, they are plentiful.  Cruising at 120km/h down the highway, what’s that in the road?  Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da…buh-bump.  Gold lane drivers aren’t exempt from them either.  On certain stretches of highway you’ll see mini speed humps on the shoulder alone.  I assume to deter people from driving on the shoulder.  That’s when you get people using the Platinum lane, otherwise known as the ‘desert bypass’.

Bonus – Litter

Nothing peeves me more then to be in such a beautiful country with such breath taking landscapes then to discover on closer inspection it is a dump, literally.  The UAE is full of proud, patriotic, educated people who are also a bit self absorbed and perhaps have a slight entitlement complex.  It blows my mind every time I see the passengers of the cars around me on the road, roll down their window and toss out their trash.  I’m not talking apple cores, cigarette butts, or gum (though I’ve seen those go out the window as well).  I’m talking full bags of McDonald’s garbage tossed out the window.  Or plastic bags full of whatever trash, just dropped onto the road next to their car as they drive away.  I’ve seen people open all their doors at a red light, and sweep the tissues, wrappers, bits of food onto the street before jumping back in as the light changed to green.  Wow.  Stay classy UAE.  Stay classy.  I wish I could get away from that when we head to the sand dunes for camping, or a nearby wadi for a hike and a swim.  It’s almost worse in these places.  The last few months, while the weather was tolerable, we kept garbage bags and gloves in our car to pick up what we could.  It just doesn’t end, and it won’t until they change.

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