11 October 2008

Only Mars astronauts and the rich need apply

Architecturally speaking, Abu Dhabi is fantastic. I say this after a mere 30-hour stay, and significantly, without having had the chance to step into the magnificent Sheik Zayed Mosque.

But I cannot live here. This is a land of only-the-rich-need-apply and they are unapologetic about it.

Other than being unable to find a decent hotel under 100 euros for Mr A who was coming from Dubai for a night, the nail that drove it into the coffin for me was the taxi.

The problem is this: taxi-drivers do not stop for you if they are not happy, and that is 95% of the time if you are not a local or a white foreigner. By the way, the taxi is practically the only form of public transport since there are about four bus services that run.

When I texted Mr A yesterday that I was sorry I was late and that I was trying to get a taxi to meet him at the hotel lobby, he texted back the following advice, sic:
Often the only way for UAE taxi is: take a private hotel taxi; promise driver big tip; jump into a busy taxi let the first person be dropped and continue; scream loud "airport!!!" so they stop.
One was not possible as I was outside our embassy and could see no hotel around; two and three I considered acrobatic acts since I did not know how, especially with a laptop and in a skirt suit, to get a taxi driving at 50 km/h to slow down sufficiently so that I can promise or jump in; four, aka random shouting on the streets, was something entirely out of my character and I had no ink marker with which I could have executed a written and more demure alternative.

The combined result of them all was that after 40 minutes of frantic waving, cursing under my breath and heating up under the bloody suit jacket, I hung my head in defeat and walked back to the embassy to beg for a ride back to the hotel.

Which happens to be a luxury that thousands of Pakistani and Iranian labourers, and Mr A who is Spanish and apparently looks like an Iranian, do not have. So whenever they need to go anywhere, they:
(1) walk, in 45 degrees heat if applicable;
(2) pay through the nose for a private taxi - e.g. 40 euros roundtrip for each of Mr A's tango class; or
(3) take turns to wave frantically while the rest sit on the curb and hope inshallah.

Mr A thinks he is now mentally strong enough to apply to NASA to be a Mars astronaut. I believe him!

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