New Taxis

As part of getting ready to go home, I have sold the car, so I'm back to riding in taxis, something I haven't done much of in the last two years and not at all in the last six months. So this weekend I finally got to rid in one of the new taxis that are slowly replacing Abu Dhabi and Al Ain's old gold and white taxis. You can take a peek at the new taxis at the Trans AD website.

So how was it? It stunk.

No, wait, it smelled ok. It is the old taxis (well, mostly the drivers) that stink. The taxi itself was very clean, comfortable and unsmelly (being a new car doesn't hurt with any of this, I'm sure), the driver uniformed and polite, no decorated dashboard coverings or weird noises coming from the car anywhere.

But, it is also a good bit more expensive. The old taxis charge 2 dirhams + 50 fils per km (and the 50 fils doesn't take effect until the meter has gone 0.9 kms, so a trip of 1.8 kms is the same price as 0.9 kms). The new taxis charge 3 dirhams + 75 fils per km + 21 dirhams per hour (+ 2.50 dirhams if you call them instead of flagging one down). So a trip to the mall that cost 6.50 going in an old taxi cost 12.50 coming back. Sure, I can afford it. But what about my co-workers who do not make as much as I do and do not have cars? Their transportation cost, when the old taxis are all gone, are going to skyrocket.

I'm sure that these taxis are safer, cleaner, etc, etc. But the old ones have character. And I'm pretty sure that no one will never have some of the experiences that I did in the old cabs: enjoying a cabbie whooping with delight as he listens to Pakistan play India in cricket; having a cabbie ask if I have a sister he could marry; or being told by another how much he loves the Taliban and hates Americans; or being told by the very next one how much he loves George Bush and hates the Taliban; or another that said I look Turkish or Syrian because I have a "beautiful beard" but my terrible Arabic accent gave me away; or the one that tried to convert me to Islam, even though I seemed to know more about it than he did; or the lunatic, laughing maniacally as he ran a red light.

These were real experiences, memories that I will have the rest of my life. Whenever I tell the maniacally red light running story, everyone laughs - who is going to be entertained by a story that goes "It was a very pleasant, safe ride"?

Progress - that is what really stinks.


Cairogal said...

It's great to know the details of the taxi rates since we are likely (hopefully) moving to AUH this August. When I lived in Sharjah in the late 90s there were no meters, and you never got into the car w/o negotiating the rate first. 5 dirhams got you anywhere in Sharjah, and you could negotiate less for a short distances. The cars STUNK. The permits which were posted w/ the driver's photo on the back of the head rest were never the people pictured. They made the drivers wear these green dungerees. They spoke no English, no Arabic, and couldn't find the centre of this thriving metropolis (Rolla Square) if you were 1 block away from it. Imagine trying to get one to take you to Dubai. I think I would have welcomed a slightly higher price for a cleaner version.

Are there more drivers from various Arab states in AUH?

Brn said...

Nearly all of the drivers of the old taxis are Afghani or Pakistani. A lot of them do not speak English, but I've never had any trouble getting around - most of them have been here a long time and know the city very well. Of course Al Ain isn't growing or changing like Dubai, and that helps.

I think that the driver of the new taxi I had was Indian, but I'm not sure of that. Except for the Omani cabs that you see from Buraimi, I cannot say that I have ever seen an Arab cab driver.

Cairogal said...

When I later lived in Dubai, the taxi drivers there (particularly w/ Dubai transport) speak quite well, are well-groomed, etc. I've come across the odd Iraqi or Syrian driving a taxi, but only in Dubai. Since AUH is known for being more "Arab" in terms of its residence than Dubai I wondered if the taxi drivers adapted by learning more of the local dialect.

So your contract there is ending? How long have you been in Al Ain?

Brn said...

Well, it is almost up; I've leaving about two months early because of an extended family illness. I've been here since June of 2005, so just short of three years .