Category Archives: Driving

“Going Native”

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A friend in Dubai used the phrase “going native” with me as we were driving around….. see, the apparent custom here is that if you’re sitting behind another car in traffic at a traffic light and it turns green, the first one to honk wins. Apparently. So, as the light in front of us turned green, I said “honk”. She cracked up and said “so you’ve been here long enough to be going all native on us, huh?” Made me laugh.

Driving in Dubai has a bit of an aggressive edge to it. Not assertive….drivers are waaaaay past that. It’s aggressive. If you don’t push out into a traffic circle when the lane’s almost clear, you’ll suffer the horn-honking wrath of the drivers behind you. Now, TBG, who is normally one of the most rational, calm and reasonable drivers that you’ll ever meet, showed me a most surprising side of his driving ability…… TBG “went native!”

I was navigating. Normally, not an issue…. But I’d missed an exit a week or so before because it looked like a construction site entrance, and we ended up having to drive about an additional 30 minutes because I’d missed it. So this time, that exit that looked like a construction entrance wasn’t gonna fool me….. right off a 7-lane expressway…… uh yeah, I was certain it was our exit.

*sigh* It wasn’t. TBG didn’t fuss, he just started looking around to figure out how to get us out of this construction area….. found a bit of a road in the right direction and headed out. But the road was getting narrower and narrower and narrower…… and was now separated from the main highway, but adjacent, but now… it… ended. Sand. No pavement. Hmmm…. We’re less than 20’ from the shoulder of the road we shoulda been on with only flat fairly smooth sand between us and it… you guessed it, there he went! Crazy, but he got us there!

A bit later, some big FJ was trying to crowd us out of our lane, kept easing over and easing over…. Normally, they’d have had that spot, no problem. But we needed to move over a couple lanes and exit pretty quick, so no joy for him! Honking and flashing did that driver no good, TBG wasn’t moving to the left to let him around on the right, as we needed to exit. So the FJ ended up somewhere a few cars behind us, TBG did a “Dubai Slide” over a couple two or three lanes, and we made our exit. Ba-da-bing!

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On the way to eat supper and then to the grocery, our four lanes quickly change to three with no signs or indications…. The road just has no stripes any longer, leaving drivers to attempt to sort out what’s happening till the stripes resume… but with only three lanes now. Oddly, there were three cabs in the lanes adjacent to us, and they tend to drive with some serious abandon here…. But when the dust settled and the stripes reappeared, those cabs were behind TBG, cause our supper stop was just ahead! I think I noticed one of the cabbies grumbling to himself.

As always, there’s someone that doesn’t want to wait in the line of traffic, their business is ever so much more important than yours. They’ll drive along the shoulder, or in a turn lane, or in the lane where cars park, or a fire lane, or a merging lane until it’s no longer possible to go, and they expect someone to let them in. And if there’s more than a 2 cm gap (about an inch) between you and the car in front of you, they’ll attempt to wedge themselves right in there. That “someone” wasn’t gonna be TBG that day.

Parking garages tend to be a huge free-for-all. Really. Parking spaces in Dubai are insanely hard to come by sometimes, and when people think they’ve seen someone heading towards their car, they’ll come to a dead stop and wait. And wait. And honk. And wait. Parking garages are insanely loud places, the honking echoes many times. Crazy. Normally, we’ll just pull out around the waiting car and drive on, there’s likely another spot somewhere.

This parking garage had the red/green lights over each parking space to indicate occupied or open. If you’re looking down a quarter-mile of parked cars, those little lights REALLY help! TBG saw a green one and headed down the aisle….. sadly, against the arrows. Going the wrong way.   Unlike others, he didn’t stop and back up, he just continued unabashedly down to the open spot.   And parked. TBG had gone native, y’all!!

Dubai Thunderstorm Video

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Ya know, having lived in the deep south in the US, driving in an afternoon thunderstorm is no big deal – you just slow down a bit, allow some extra room, and expect to have limited visibility and water ponding on the roads in low spots, right?  And, ya kinda get used to it, because every summer afternoon, between 1600 – 1900, there’s gonna be a brief thunderstorm.  Every. Day.

In Dubai  –  not so much.  There’s not many days of rain there, and when there is a thunderstorm, it must mean that the gods are angry or something – really rare.  Consequently, Dubai drivers don’t have a lot of experience driving in an unexpected downpour.  And *all* weather in Dubai is “unexpected”….. no weather forecasts, ya see.  So, we ended up driving in one of the worst thunderstorms Dubai had seen in years – TBG was sure, safe and steady, in control of the situation, but many other vehicles on the roadways sadly were not…. here’s a quick video I made of that odd drive……

Don’t let me get bored!

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I thought this was kinda interesting….. in order that during those 3 minutes it takes someone else to pump your gas they want to make sure you don’t get bored…….

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Sitting in line at the gas station, there was a dang monster-big TV screen in the storefront across the way.  They are showing advertising, maps of the route ahead (since you can only go one way, no left turns here, remember??), new products, things to entice children, stuff like that.  A great marketing idea, because what *else* do you have to do while you’re waiting for someone else to pump your gas??

Food Review – Ruth’s Chris – excellent red meat!

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TBG and I had the opportunity (and Entertainer vouchers!) to have a meal at one of the local Ruth’s Chris restaurants here in Dubai.  The H Hotel (formerly the Monarch) is close to the Trade Center roundabout.   Reservations are definitely suggested, and they’re easy to make.  Traffic getting there is crazy, as normal.  But, always navigable.

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I’d never had the pleasure of dining at one, but had heard that they do steak quite well – we were not disappointed.  Valet-parking will allow you to simply step out of your car (and they wouldn’t park it right next to the red Ferarri parked outside the door, either, he asked.) and enter through the big glass doors manned by a rather tall gent from Kenya.  We were directed through the lobby and upstairs to the restaurant.  There were some lovely areas in the lobby, but we were *really* hungry and not terribly motivated to take photos….. but here’s a traditional seating area that was really pretty.

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Seated immediately, we snuggled into a quiet half-circle booth with upholstered walls, leather seats and pillows.  Yes, pillows.  I loved that.   And had our own crystal chandelier overhead with just the right lighting.  Our server was Patrick, who spoke excellent English and even got some of TBG’s jokes – or at least laughed at the right times.  We had a late lunch (for us) reservation of 1 pm, and the restaurant was virtually empty.  There were perhaps three other tables filled.

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Choice of sparkling or still water, and the menus and some lovely crusty bread and butter arrived.  The bread was nothing special to us, fairly flavorless, but since my stomach had started growling about 15 minutes earlier, it quieted that.  We’d browsed the menu online prior to our arrival, and TBG had decided that after a positive experience with the Macaroni Grill’s “Sampler” type dish, he’d order the same thing today.  He was sad to find it not on the menu at this location, and asked Patrick was it possibly only available for dinner service.  He got my favorite answer – “Of course sir, we will make it for you!”  *sigh*….. gotta love it.  I opted for a couple of small filet medallions with a crabcake & bearnaise on top, and spiced grilled shrimp alongside.  Asparagus and mashed potatoes rounded out our order and we were left to our conversation while our food was being prepared.

Understated elegance and quiet comfort is how I would describe the surroundings here.   TBG is not a fan of extremely fancy, pretentious restaurants, and he was sitting back and telling me about what all had happened in his workday – perfectly at home.

One annoying thing was that my stomach wouldn’t stop growling.  We could literally smell the steaks brought out sizzling in butter as they were delivered, and it was making us hungry!!

Food arrived, and look at this.  Lovely, but austere presentation on VERY hot plates…. And the focus was on the meat, as it should be.

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Both meats were  grilled to perfection, the crabcake was likely one of the best I’ve ever eaten, and TBG was enamored of the chicken stuffed with cheeses – we were both very happy.  The side dishes were good – tasty, but not the stars of this meal. Fresh asparagus, stalks trimmed and steamed just right with a cheesy hollandaise sauce on the side.  The stars were the steaks – fork-tender and prepared just right.   The rich béarnaise sauce was a lovely complement to the filets, which can tend towards dryness.  Not these.

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All in all, our meal was one that we literally ate until we were full.  Stuffed.  And happy.  Thanks for an excellent lunch, Ruth’s Chris – we’ll be back, and next time, we’ll try dessert first, and if we have room, we’ll eat meat too!  Our lunch was not inexpensive, including all the add-ons we selected, it was right around AED700 before the discount offered by the Entertainer voucher – about $190 USD, and after the voucher, AED485 – about $130 USD.  Well worth it, and we’ll return!  Sadly, our return to the valet pickup area did not provide TBG with the vehicle he was hoping for…..lol……

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Jerked back into reality

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Sometimes, this place is sorta like a big ole Disney-ish bubble, you know?  Very little crime, awesome weather during the winter, interesting places to go and things to do, top-level entertainment, and then there’s the camels…. <smile>

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The other day, TBG and I were driving to Abu Dhabi, and on the other side of the highway, driving towards Dubai, there was a huge tank being pulled on a flatbed, painted up all desert-camouflage.  Kinda brought back to my brain that we live in a part of the world here in the Middle East where there are some pretty significant issues being worked out.  Or worked on.  Or protested about.  People and ideas finding their way, making their complaints and grievances and beliefs known, and looking for betterment.  Or change.  Or recognition.

Sure isn’t Disneyworld.  I got jerked back into reality.