Following my recent posting asking what YOU want to know about life as an expat in Saudi Arabia, the first question has flooded in!
Q: "Chris, is the driving in Riyadh really as bad as you say in earlier blog entries, or are you exaggerating to make us feel sorry for you?"
A: Well Anonymous, funny you should ask that today, as I had a particularly hairy car journey yesterday evening that illustrates the situation perfectly...
I was driving (alone) from home to a meeting of Not The Riyadh Choral Society, and the first incident occurred as I approached the exit from King Khalid Rd. to the Northern Ring Rd. I'm used to Saudis approaching highway exits in the fast lane, then veering off onto the slip road at 160km/h at the last minute, so as I got close to my exit my attention was on my left wing mirror, watching for speeding lunatics about to cut me up. I should have known better. As I turned off to take the exit ramp a Saudi driving a 4x4 in the inside lane, who was already in the mouth of the exit, suddenly decided he wanted to stay on King Khalid Rd. a bit longer and swerved back onto the main highway, right in front of me. He had effectively blocked my exit and I had to jam on my brakes to avoid hitting him. I just managed to still make the exit by driving over the studded markings between the two roads.
About ten minutes later I was driving down the fast lane of the Northern Ring Rd. when another Saudi in front of me started drifting into the next lane (they do this all the time. He could have decided to get out of my way or he could have been beginning his approach to leaving the Ring Rd at the next exit: who knows? Saudis don't know what indicators are for). Anyway, the problem was another Saudi in the lane to our right, driving next to the first car didn't want to let him cut in and was keeping the same speed in order to force Saudi #1 to stay in the outside lane, thus missing his exit or annoying the following vehicle (me), depending on his original intent. So, what did our desperate first Saudi do? That's right, he floored the accelerator, pulled in front of the other car, then swerved into the next lane in front of him and started stabbing at his brakes to intimidate the second driver and punish him for not letting him out earlier. I decided that the safest place was in front of these two rather than behind them so I shot forward as quickly as I could to get out of harm's way.
It's gotten to the point where only extreme manouevres like these are worth commenting on. The rest -- the lane drifting, tail-gating, ignoring traffic lights, creating new lanes where there are none just to get a bit further ahead -- is just routine now.
OK OK, There is no "Anonymous". I wrote the question myself so I could tell you about my driving nightmares. But until you participate and tell me what you want to know I haven't got much choice have I?