The other day, I took a taxi home from work and sat back, pinned to my seat, as the six-lane Sheikh Zayed Road turned into a blur of speed.
And that was just the slip road onto it.
We set off at a pace from the Crown Plaza Hotel, narrowly missing some errant tourists trying to cross the street, then weaved out onto the SZ road, veering into the second-fastest lane in seconds. The Lewis Hamilton in him sees a chance to step on the gas and he isn’t going to let rush-hour traffic get in our way.
“Slow down!” I want to exclaim, but don’t, instead asking him to turn the AC up. He fiddles around with an air vent in the back and I thank him, willing him to turn his eyes back to the road.
“I get us to Arabian Ranches,” he says, “then you show me the way, ok. Umm Suqeim or Hessa?” he asks. I pick the slower way, thinking it might help him keep his side of the bargain. He nods and starts chatting about bridges, in taxi-driver English.
I immediately know this isn’t going to be one of those journeys where you sit in silence, listening to the prayer beads jangle and the bleeper go off as the taxi accelerates through the speed limit (120kph).
“Where you from?” he enquires. “You make this journey every day?”, “How long in Dubai?”, “You have husband?”, “Children?”, “Ah, I’m only 24, I have time!”, “How old are you?” he asks, lurching us forwards as he hits the brakes to avoid the car we’re tailing too closely.
“25,” I joke – and he pretends to believe me (oh, how I warm to him, despite knowing he’s peering at me in his rearview mirror far longer than is safe).
I find out he’s from Pakistan (you’ll never meet an Emirati cabbie; most are from India, Afghanistan or Pakistan), and has been careering round Dubai’s roads for two years.
Then, all of a sudden, we’re the ones being tailgated. A Landcruiser with tinted windows is on our bumper, flashing its lights furiously. We move aside, and the road hog roars right up to the next car (flash-flash), then the next (more aggressive flashing).
“So rude,” we both agree, back in the fast lane by now. “You know why? It’s because they drink the camel’s milk!” he tells me, with an air of authority (goodness knows what they’re taught at taxi school).
Though it’s a friendly chat, I’m glad we’re nearing the end of our journey and fully expect to go flying over the speed bumps on our final approach to the Arabian Ranches retail centre (most drivers do, as the humps are not steep and there are no children playing).
When, wouldn’t you know, he takes each bump (and there must be at least 10 of them), as though we’re picking our way up a mountain in a 20-tonne truck with a burst tyre, nearly causing a pile-up of commuters behind us – their final stretch of road home now a slow limp to the finish line.
I consider it, then think better of encouraging him, because telling a Dubai taxi driver to go faster is probably something you should never say. Ever. If you want to arrive without finding your eyebrows have disappeared into your hairline.