Monday, December 1, 2008

Through the wide open country that I love, don't fence me in...

I've been stuck in the somewhat uncomfortable situation of brushing up against lawlessness for a while now. When you are given your residency in the UAE your international driver's license immediately becomes invalid, and you need to apply for a UAE one. In my case, I need to apply for one from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, since my residency comes from there, since Mike's residency comes from there, since his work is there. (Got that?)

It gets a little bit confusing as we live in the city of Dubai in the Emirate of Dubai. Like New York (city), New York (state), see? The city of Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, incidentally. (Each emirate is named after the largest city within its borders. ) Now, I needed to get to Abu Dhai, 90 minutes or so away, to apply for my license, but no one could tell me where in Abu Dhabi I needed to go! The prospect of driving around a crowded city, without a driver's license, not knowing where I was going, held little appeal for me. I decided to take my chances and keep driving to a minimum until I could at least find out where to go.

You would think finding something out like that would be easy; alas, it was not. I looked online, asked around, checked various guide books. All sources were careful to enumerate the long list of paperwork that was needed to get the license, but where was not to be found. Here is a photo that sums it up perfectly:

Guidance and Directions: No information available.

Mike's company had driven him when we'd become eligible, so we decided to arrange a driver for me as well, bypassing the whole getting lost/can't find parking/having no license and getting in an accident that will be-my-fault-no-matter-what deal. We arranged this for Monday.

On Sunday I heard the following on the radio's top news, and then, in a panic, found the article on Gulf News:

No driver's licence for 100 categories of UAE workers

By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff ReporterPublished: November 29, 2008, 23:31

Dubai: Authorities have decided to stop issuing driving licences to certain categories of residents to curb the sharp rise in the number of vehicles, Gulf News has learnt.

Residents belonging to up to 100 categories will not be given licences. These include nurses, cooks, carpenters, housemaids, watchmen, tailors, cafeteria waiters, unskilled labourers, gardeners and bakers.

People belonging to other categories, which do not require a university degree, will not be able to open a driving licence file at traffic police departments all over UAE.

A Sharjah Police official told Gulf News that the interior ministry has instructed traffic departments last week to stop opening driving licence files for people belonging to about 100 categories as mentioned in their residence visa.


My residency paperwork describes my official profession as "housewife" and makes no mention of my college and university degrees.

I decided the best course of action was to have a heart attack, freak out, run around like a chicken with its head cut off, stomp, swear, and call Mike.

I didn't look up the flight schedules for the soonest one out of here, but I can't deny it was in the back of my mind.

Both Mike and my friend Cathy chided me to calm down. Cathy told me something along the lines of "You've been here longer than I have. You know the rules aren't really the rules".

Still, after my last experience at the police station, I was pretty worried. I called the department of licensing in Abu Dhabi as soon as they opened, and after waiting a paltry 40 minutes on hold asked the nice English-speaking lady about the new law. (press 2 for English, almost always, very helpful for us.) She had no idea what I was talking about, saying that if I have a USA passport and driver's license and bring the paperwork, I should have no problem whatsoever.

The next morning I headed out to Abu Dhabi to meet Mike and the driver, and after 24 hours of worrying and wondering, I heard on the radio that the new law was only for residents of the emirate of Sharjah.
I told Cathy that we needed to hunt down the reporter named above and smack him silly for all the stress he caused. She agreed. I also gave her permission to tell me "I told you so" as many times as she deemed necessary.

It was kind of fun to point the car down the coast and just drive.

The Abu Dhabi DOL has a branch not far from Mike's work, in Al Taweehah. Another husband followed us with his wife so she could get a license there too. They parked closer to the building and got to go first. Getting the license was a matter of waiting my turn, forking over lots of documentation, taking an eye exam, and getting a photo taken, and then the machine that prints the licenses...broke. The other wife got the last one.


So they wrote me a sort of permission slip note on my receipt for the process (in Arabic) allowing me to drive, and asked us to come back in 5 hours to see if it was ready yet. Mike drove me around his company's jobsite, to show me the fruits of his labors. It is out in the desert, on the Gulf, and there they are endlessly working to build the power plant on a huge scale. Very neat.

Then, as we were driving away... Mike said "something's wrong with the car," and we chugged to a stop along the side of the road, in the desert. Sigh again.

Here is a photo of a sign I took next to where we inadvertently parked:

Road Closed. Yup.

His co-worker, our 4x4 buddy, drove out to pick us up. We left the poor Patrol there, and Mike picked up a fuel filter last night, instead of my license, hoping that the fuel filter is the problem. He plans to drive out with a co-worker to install it today and see what happens. In the meantime, government offices are closed for the next ten's a national holiday.

Nothing is ever easy, is it?

1 comment:

Cathy O. said...

No guidance or directions available.... that is perfect. lol.