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Rules of UAE's E30 Truck Road

The "truck road" as we, and I think just about everyone else in the UAE, calls it, is a road that goes through the Emirates, connects Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Whenever we drive from Dibba, Oman to Dubai, we take the mountain road to the truck road and then get on the Emirates Road to go into Dubai. We are all accustomed to the road, familiar with its customs and unspoken rules. Driving on this road can be terrifying, especially so if you have no idea what the unwritten rules are. Without any understanding of the 'rules,' the road seems lawless. Even with the rules, driving this road can feel like Russian roulette.

Primitive conditions

  • No lighting- The vast majority of this road is unlit. There are two places where there are lights at these stations for the big semi-trucks. Last time I drove this road, the roundabouts weren't lit. It can be nearly impossible to tell if oncoming traffic is in your lane until they're bearing down on you. 
  • No barriers- There are no barriers along the sides or between opposite directions of traffic. Piles of sand build up in the lanes during sandstorms and camels wander onto the road.
  • No reflective markers- The center line and lane lines are not reflective. There are no rumble strips to wake you up
  • Rumpled Pavement and Potholes- We took care to remember about how far along the road the really bad potholes were, so we could try to avoid them at night. It takes a strong, steady hand to maintain control if you hit one at high speeds. The pavement at the low point between to hills is rippled, I'm assuming from the heat. They make your car bounce violently for several seconds
  • Wide range of speeds- Large heavy trucks go slow and block passing lanes/shoulders while small sports cars zoom fast at breakneck speeds

The Unspoken Rules
There are no posted, enforced rules, but there is definitely a culture to the truck road. Here is what I've learned from driving on it so far-

  • The speed limit is however fast you want to drive
  • The road is two lanes with giant shoulders on each side
  • Flash your brights if you're going to overtake
  • If you're being overtaken, move onto the shoulder to make room
  • If an oncoming car is overtaking, move onto the shoulder to give them more room
  • Keep your hazards on if you're going over 140kph or under 100kph

Notes on Dubai

Only in Dubai will you hear your American friend yell to his German buddy "Yella Habibi!" Arabic for "Let's go, my love"

Nearly half of the buildings here are in various stages of construction, with cranes and scaffolding everywhere. The skyline is littered with cranes. We play the crane game as we walk through the city- who can spot the most. Do the cranes on super yachts in the marina count? Just construction cranes? I can easily count twenty in view as I walk two blocks.

Dubai lacks a grounded sense of culture. Its like a giant international airport in an Arab country. There are clues to tell you where you are, but everyone and everything is from all over the place. Your taxi driver speaks four, maybe five languages. You can buy groceries with three different currencies.

There is this one section of the main drag, along Sheikh Zayed Road, where the skyline is really weird and ominous. In Manhattan, the skyscrapers form this mass of skyline, surrounding each other to form a dense downtown. Dubai doesn't have that density. So many of the skyscrapers are pretty solitary. It looks really bizarre, a skyscraper surrounded by three and four story buildings. This one section of Sheikh Zayed Road is lined on each side by skyscrapers. But behind them are tiny single and two story buildings. When you drive down the road, its like driving through a gauntlet. I found a photo on the internet that shows how dramatic it is.

You find yourself using words and phrases in daily interaction that come from places you have never been, in addition to the place you currently are. I adopted the following words:
'posh' from the United Kingdom
'braai' from South Africa
'post' from Germany
and my most beloved phrase;
'yella habibi' Arabic.