When you’ve been in Dubai for a while, there comes a time when you realise your ageing car doesn’t cut it anymore. This moment came for us (well, DH at least) when our 4by4 started leaking brake fluid on Sheikh Zayed Road.
This came after our housemaid slammed her foot onto the accelerator rather than the brake, and crashed it into a tree – but more about that later.
I should add, as an aside, that if you do break down here, someone nearly always helps. It’s the Arabic culture to do so, perhaps because it’s a country where, as soon as you leave the major urban centres, you enter a middle-of-nowhere landscape where in summer it seems incredible that anything could survive. Staring through the car window at endless sand, littered with dunes, scrubby shrubs and giant electricity pylons whose wires stretch for as far as the eye can see in each direction, you might wonder how humans have thrived in the desert for the last 2,000 years or so.
Now, our ailing car probably wouldn’t be considered especially old in most other countries, but in the UAE we drive hundreds of kilometres a week (and that’s just carting the kids to school and their various activities). Add to that the sand, heat and – in some cases – aggressive driving, and it’s easy to see why wear and tear is so rapid here.
Motorists in the Emirates keep a car for, on average, about 5.2 years, less than half the 11.5-year average for vehicles in the US, but much longer than drivers in Saudi Arabia who keep their cars for 3.8 years before selling them, according to The National.
Anyway, seduced by the easy financing options on offer in the UAE, we’re now the proud owners of a brand-new Pajero – as black as a moonless night (the only colour left) with dark tinted windows to screen out the sunlight. It was an exciting moment when it rolled up outside, all shiny and clean with plastic covers on the seats and that new-car smell.
DH had to leave on a trip straight away, so I was the first to take it for a spin – well, to transport the kids to baseball anyway. And I realised there’s nothing quite like gingerly driving a new car to make you feel like you’re negotiating Dubai traffic for the first time. White Van Man, Mr No Rules, The Flasher, Mr Road Hog and The Slow Poke were all out to get me (press here for more detailed descriptions of the characters on Dubai’s roads), and it was with some relief that I arrived at our destination without incident.
Only to find that the car we were so thrilled with is, quite literally, everywhere.