Taxi tales in the UAE

We get better acquainted with the nation's taxi drivers

The Knowledge

When I first arrived in Dubai, the vast majority of interactions that caused me to rant and/or rave, both verbally and in Time Out Dubai, were provoked by the city’s taxi drivers. Since then, and since I first shamefacedly confessed in this column to driving cabbies up the wall (in between being driven round the bend and the houses in return), I’ve learned a few valuable lessons.

I admit, despite now knowing better, that I continue to be suspicious of the one-way systems in Dubai that require cabbies to loop endlessly round the back streets before finally hitting the intended route. I’ve learned that ‘yes, I do know your location and how to get there’ doesn’t necessarily mean what you’d assume. Even so, I’ve continued to enjoy my chats with the city’s taxi drivers. I have even, it seems, made a friend. Make of that what you will – I haven’t quite worked it out either.

Over the summer, I jumped into a taxi that took me home, amid plenty of joking and jesting from the driver. I’m not even sure any more what we chatted about – I remember something about cricket (each playing to English-Pakistani stereotypes).

The following week, at the same time, I found myself in the same taxi, with the same good humour. Months passed, and I hailed a taxi to head to JLT with a friend. Cue confusion: the driver was unsure why we were going there. It was my cricket-watching driver, and he remembered my friend and I from previous journeys. He also remembered where each of us lived, and couldn’t work out why we weren’t going home.

The following week, leaving Sandance on the Palm, my friend and I found ourselves minus a cab. We decided the sensible solution was to walk towards the hotel taxi rank; on the way a cab drove speedily towards us, pulled up and tooted its horn.

Fate had spoken. It was our friend Mohammed, who had fortuitously turned up in our time of need. The caveat: Mohammed already had a passenger, who was going to Bur Dubai (in the opposite direction) and wasn’t impressed by the intrusion – or the insistence that it was fine because she was just a customer, and we were friends. Awkward.

So, despite no one feeling too easy about it, we got a ride home (and could have had a burger and ice cream too, if we’d taken Mohammed up on his kind offer). We just had to take a detour to the opposite side of town. Swings and roundabouts: like friendships, and driving in Dubai.
Penelope Walsh is our Eating Out Editor. She’s thinking about leaving Sandance earlier in future.

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