Monday, October 8, 2012

Mondays in the Middle East: Hi-speed Roundabouts

     Over the weekend I found myself in a position I rarely enjoy: driving in heavy traffic. Sure, I have been stuck in Atlanta traffic a few times. And that was stressful. But the stress of driving in traffic here is multiplied by 100 for me! Why, you may ask? Well, let me paint you a picture! Imagine 4 lanes of traffic all moving a 75 mph on the highway running through town. People are merging at free will, often with no turn signals. They squeeze in between cars with only inches to spare! Again...not slowing down in the least! People are running out in front of you hoping to cross the road without getting hit! They are playing the real-life game of Frogger! (if you are reading this and have no idea what that is then I am truly feeling old for the first time! ha!) And in growing cities there is always construction! The road you drove down yesterday is suddenly blocked off and now all traffic must merge into a single file line with no warning! Inches, I mean "by the skin of your teeth" cutting it close! And then after you have survived that, comes the dreaded roundabout! Sure, in some parts of the world the roundabout is a helpful system. The town I grew up in is starting to incorporate them into the higher traveled areas. But, let me tell you, here I would rather drink curdled milk than face one of the big traffic circles! The cars on the inside of the circle have the right a way! So when your turn comes up you must take a deep breath and zoom across 2 to 3 lanes of traffic, just praying that you can make your turn! And if you miss it...oh brother, going around the circle again just angers the other drivers! Better get it right the first time! Now add a very talk-a-tive toddler who demands response to her rhetorical questions, an over-tired screaming infant and the sun nearly blinding you, and you have the "perfect" conditions for driving here! HA!
"Mommy, isn't this car just beautiful!" -Lexi
beside a Lotus
     But WAIT, there's more to it than this! People on the Arabian Peninsula love to spend money on their cars! We drive a Ford Explorer and I feel like we are in a poor man's car. It is really common to see Porsche, BMW, Jaguar, FJ, Hummer, Range Rover, Lexus...and these are usually SUV's. The big cars are the popular ones. But I have also looked out of the car window and noticed I was riding beside a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, Lotus, Maserati, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, and and Aston Martin! I cannot even imagine having an accident with one of those!
Car give away in the local mall!
Even though the roads here are really nice in terms of asphalt, and well lit highways , the mortality rate is pretty high :( This is not just because of hi-speeds and insane roundabouts, but because of the lack of wearing seat belts. I know growing up in the States putting on the seat belt is pretty much second nature. It is just part of riding in the car. But this is not the case here. It is very common to see babies riding in their mother's laps in the front seat! And it is normal to see 5= kids jumping around in the back! Yes, I have been to many countries where this is "normal" and "safe." So much so that the Expats often follow in suite. But  it is the hi- speeds that can kill a whole family! Needless to say, my family buckles up and the kids are in approved carseats.
As for roundabouts, I try my best to avoid them! (In some cities this is not possible, however, because there are roundabouts every 400 meters! No Joke!) Well, signing off for this post. Hope you were a little enlightened on driving in the Middle East! And now you know another way you can pray for us!

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