Thursday, 6 March 2008
Driving in Doha
This is a topic that will be very hard to actually describe. I need to start by talking about maps of Doha, or perhaps I need to talk about road signs? The map that Steve has is rather inaccurate. There are roads marked on it that are under repair or not yet built and there are roads out there that are not on any map yet. There are lovely signs pointing to places like the airport, but when you take that exit you find that it is a 'future' way to the airport and at present is- you guessed it- under construction. This leaves you with the old tried and true routes, except when suddenly a road block goes up to say that this 'road is closed' at present. The other interesting factor in the mix is that there is a roundabout on every important junction, which is fine except that no-one has ever taught anyone how to use one. So you have the situation of entering a roundabout, being hemmed in or crossed over by someone who is determined to move from the centre to the outside of the roundabout to turn right NOW. This is very disconcerting and lends itself to many sharp intakes of breath and some prayers. I spoke to a man the other day who said he just shuts his eyes and hopes for the best as he hurtles through the roundabout! The odd thing is that there seem to be few roundabout accidents. The other very curious thing is that all the roundabouts have a name know only to local people. My favourite is the Cholestrol Roundabout- where you can find any fast food restaurant you might want as well as many popular restaurants. The main accidents I have seen are spectacular ones, stemming from the fact that young Qatari men seem to love to test out their Land Rovers/Lamborghinis/ Lexus cars on any stretch of road that appears in front of them. Just now on my way home in a taxi we came across a group of young men in their Thaubes? (not sure of spelling) (long gown worn by men) trying to right a brand new gold Land Rover with a rope tied to another car. The whole car was suitably written off, the driver a bit dusty but fine and my driver told me that they would not inform the police, simply tow it into an obliging garage and have them fill out some paperwork so that the insurance would pay up , the young man get his new car and all would be well. I have started to drive but only on the quiet times of day and only in our local area. I love to leave the downtown negotiations to my Sri Lankan driver Zameer, who takes me anywhere for $12. It seems that there are too many cars on the roads, too many road works, too many inconsiderate/impatient drivers and not enough monitoring of the situation. I think this is about to change as I see cameras going up and traffic lights on some busy roundabouts (an interesting concept). Steve loves driving here of course and just joins into the fun with the rest of them.