Thursday, April 7, 2011

cruisin' in my (massively over the top, shiny, 4X4) whip

Cars are a pretty big deal here.  The rule seems to be the bigger the better.  I think during the boom times high-powered sports cars were the order of the day but now it's 4X4s.  They're everywhere. Toyota Landcruisers seem to be one of the most popular but the Mercedes G Class is pretty common too, probably because Sheikh Mohammed drives one, and so although they look like boxy, old fashioned Land Rovers, they're a symbol of money and power.

It's hot enough here now that all but the shortest walks are pretty much out of the question unless you are happy to arrive at your destination dripping with sweat.  Here people are reconciled to it and just get into their air conditioned cars for even the shortest of trips, but what made us giggle a week or so ago was this brilliantly teenage use of vehicles.

We were at Jumeirah Open Beach, one of the few that you don't have to pay to get to, where there is a large expanse of concrete covered in gravel and sand for parking before you reach the sea shore.  We had just returned to our car, probably about six o'clock, when we noticed a parade of four wheel drive vehicles seemed to be queuing up to drive slowly up and down the car park in a diagonal line from the road.  We got closer and realised that a lot of the cars had teenage boys or men in their early 20s leaning out of the windows chatting to someone in the car opposite them in this slow, car park parade.

This, we realised, must be what the young, cool dudes of Dubai do of an evening.  Obviously going to the local park and necking a bottle of cider and simultaneously ignoring and staring at teenage girls is out of the question as they're not meant to drink or have pre-marital sex, so that's the twin obsessions of the average teenage boy out of the window.  So they get into their cars and drive around and lean out of the window chatting to whomsoever they meet.  You don't go and hang around somewhere on foot of course, even though it wasn't too yet too hot to do so at that point.  Such is the love affair with the car here that it's not just something for getting you from A to B, it's a part of you.

And they do it because they can.  Petrol is cheap enough here (it cost us £14 to fill up our car recently) and huge cars are affordable to young people.  While that remains the case, I can't see them taking the Metro or the bus to hang around on park benches any time soon. 

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