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The Middle East @ Work

All Hail … Taxi

Richard Core Mar 11, 2008

One of the ironies of Dubai is that all the cab drivers live in Deira, and yet it’s impossible to find a cab there. At least for a white guy who wants to go to Knowledge Village. I broke my feet walking around in circles trying to find a place where cabs might congregate. I tried the main thoroughfares first but all the traffic was whipping by too fast. I tried flagging down something that at least looked like a taxi as it waited at a stop light. I waved and waved but the driver ignored me. Finally I walked right up to his window and said, sort of desperately, “Can I get in your cab?”

“My friend,” the driver sternly said, “This taxi is going to Sharjah.”

It was a special service, I guess, serving the other emirate only.

Somehow I wound my way onto a back road where there was a whole fleet of cabs waiting outside a low-end restaurant. The drivers were all dressed in traditional Bedouin garb. I tried to explain where I wanted to go — “Knowledge Village?” I said – but they didn’t seem to understand.

“Deira?” said one of them, “Dubai.” Like he was giving me the choice. This made no sense. Deira is IN Dubai. I just wanted to go to ANOTHER part of Dubai. I said “Dubai.”

He wasn’t satisfied. He looked me in the eye and kind of mockingly chanted “Deira Dubai, Deira Dubai” batting his head back and forth. Then he asked one of the other drivers if he was interested in taking me. The guy shuddered at the idea.

Finally, I ended up at the mall, figured there had to be a cab-stand in there somewhere. I asked three people and they all told me the same thing: go upstairs, cross the mall, then go down again and take a right. So I’d go up and cross and down and ask again because I couldn’t find it. It was a dance: up, down, ask, up, down, ask. Finally I realized that I wasn’t going up high enough. There was a whole other world on the third level I didn’t know about. After about a half hour, and a very large ice cream cone, I found the cab line. It was long, maybe thirty or forty people. But it was moving pretty quickly and we got up to the front door and then rounded a corner and suddenly… there were four hundred other people lining both sides of a 200 foot long corridor. I waited in that line for a solid hour before I got a taxi back to the hotel. My feet still hurt.

— Sean Cole

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