2005/06/28

Taxis

Since I don't have a car yet (I can't buy one until I get my resident visa), I'm having to take taxis everywhere. Riding in a taxi here is quite an experience. Nearly all the drivers are from Pakistan, with a few Bangladeshis and Afghans. And almost none of them speak English, so you have to communicate in Arabic. Unfortunately, most of them don't speak Arabic either (I am assured that this is true by my Arab co-workers), so you have to give directions (like "left", "right", "straight", "here") in a language that neither one of you really understand.

Another thing that makes getting around in a taxi so interesting is that no one uses street addresses or street names. Unless you are going to a well known landmark (mall, hotel, etc), then you have to give the neighborhood or district that you want to go to and then give directions from there.

The last thing that makes taxis rides so interesting is manner in which the drivers drive. I am constantly amazed that there are not more accidents involving these guys. In terms of obeying speed limits, lane discipline, stop signs, and the like, they are awful drivers. But in terms of awareness of what is going on around them and avoiding trouble, they are amazing.

One last thing, the most important part of a taxi seems to be the horn. The driver uses it to ask if you need a ride, to signal to someone he knows, to warn pedestrians (the concept of 'the pedestrian has the right of way' is more like 'the pedestrian has the right to stay out of my way' here), to criticize someone else's driving, and to tell those in front of him that the light changed to green a milisecond ago.

4 comments:

secretdubai said...

In Dubai, they pretty much all speak English.

It's quite sad, when I first came here, I always used to chat to them. 99% of the time you learn really interesting things. The first thing I had to learn was never to give my businesscard to them (which I had done, out of politeness). They would always call, want jobs as drivers, I would get these semi-coherent people calling up at all hours.

Now, I barely even chat to them, except in a really limited way. One incident sparked this: a guy who kept calling wanting to "meet". In the end I had to get my bf to answer my mobile and tell him to fk off.

So do be careful. Some of them really still don't understand that because you travel as a lone, western woman, you're not "available". The vast, vast majority are fine. But I reckon the ones in Al Ain will be more accustomed to conservative society norms than those in Dubai.

Another (white, Brit, 20-something) friend of mine had a terrible experience with a Yemeni cabbie. She chatted politely to him, and when he found out that her parents lived in Dubai but she lived in a separate flat he went quite mad about "western women" and "young people" and disrespect, and nearly kidnapped her - started driving off at 100mph the wrong way she wanted to go. In the end she managed to get him to stop, paid up and escaped. I have no clue why she didn't call the cab company to complain, it was really silly of her not too, but she was just too shaken up at the time.

Brn said...

I tend to chat with them a little too, and it has overall been a good experience, if a little incoherent at time. The worst experience was when I told a driver that I was American and he told me that he was from the Taliban and spent the rest of the trip telling me in very broken English how much he hated George Bush and Americans, complete with throat cutting gestures. All of the other cabbies have been really nice though.

big K said...

sounds like these guys were trained to drive by an r&l forklift operator, & although I'm not a member of the taliban, I hate george bush, but thats not his fault, I pretty much hate everyone else too >8'P

Marcus Aurelius said...

Seeda-straight
Yahsahr - One way
?????? - The other way (I want to say yameen)
Walkoff - Stop

Also, these guys do not necessarily restrict their interests to women. One of my neighbors was a "happy guy" and entertained quite a few taxi drivers. One taxi driver found I was in my mid-20s and not married and immediately got *_WAY_* too friendly with me. That trip came to an early end and I ended up in a different taxi. They are also fond of asking about your salary.

I never had any experiences with a taxi driver acting out like you describe brn (ie how much he hated America etc).

When you get your car you will find your defensive driving skills improve immensley.