My two feet

Posted on August 11, 2013


Untitled 4I met a friend running around the Marina yesterday and we chatted about it being nearly a year since I went carless. You see, last summer I made the decision to sell my car with the intention to change or upgrade. It sold quickly and then various adventures got in the way of sorting another. And then? As the temps cooled, I loved the opportunity to walk. I loved discovering little areas of lush green amongst the desert sands. I loved the human connection that comes with public transport and street life …

I wrote these words on a post at the time,

My new car free status has reminded me what it’s like living in every other city in the world … the joys of walking, of people-watching, of observing kids playing, mums shopping, delivery men working, construction guys building, prams strolling, dogs lounging … and it reminds me that there is so much more to street-life in Dubai than most people see. You just need get beyond the confines of your air-conditioned 4×4 with its tinted glass, leather seats and astronomically devastating effects on our beautiful world.”

I wondered at the time whether the novelty would wear off but it hasn’t one bit. Here’s why:

The marvellous metro

The Dubai Metro system is probably the best metro set up in the world. Uber efficient, totally reliable and a wonderful way to discover a side of Dubai that sitting behind your air-conditioned, tinted windowed Prado simply doesn’t offer. I have sometimes found myself in a carriage containing a glorious melting pot of nationalities and backgrounds … a single pair of blue eyes in a sea of brown … and I love it.

The pain of parking

What a joy to no longer drive around Media City for an age trying to find a sandy patch to park in. And then, have to step out on said sand and see a beautiful pair of ballet pumps get immersed in dusty sand. For someone who rivals Immelda with her shoe (and handbag) collection, this was very upsetting!

The mall trawl

Going to the mall is a far less painful experience when you can nip in on said metro and avoid getting irate driving around for an age finding a space, feeling frustrated by utterly useless drivers, forever wondering why people feel the need to take up two spaces when one was perfectly adequate … and then on leaving, having no idea which level / section / division you finally got parked in.

Tasking & training

It’s a great little motivator when you can multi-task and combine chores with a run. Being carless makes this easy, be it a jog along to yoga or pack-on-back, a trot along the sand to Ibn Buttuta or Mall of the Emirates to fill my Raidlight with whatever I need.

Conversations with cabbies

Of course, the metro or my two feet are sometimes replaced by taxis and I’ve had some of my most treasured conversations in my six years here with taxi drivers. Most of them have pretty good English and love to tell you about life back home … their kids, their wives, their lives … a recent conversation had me hearing all about a Pakistani driver’s organic veggie garden in his home town and how he was saving all his pennies in Dubai to send home to the rest of his family, who are dedicated to growing the most amazing produce.

Hitchin’ rides

Yes really! I do occasionally find myself hitching here … there are times when there are simply no taxis to be found. Ditto re above … great connections with kind souls who you would never have stumbled across otherwise. Hitching is also a glorious reminder of carefree summers as a teen in Europe, along with French boys and Gauloises, long before hitching was ever deemed dangerous.

Supermarket sweep

Think you need a car to do a big shop? Think again. We’re so lucky here to have the marvels of home delivery so every week I pop to Park n Shop post run, fill my trolley and by the time I’ve got home and trotted up all 26 floors to casa Tori, my delivery dude is waiting at the door.

In vino veritas  

Out and about with a girlfriend and feel the urge to dip your tongue into a petit Pinot Grigio? No problem. You can do exactly that and have no need for a game of wheel tag the next day.

No more pink slips 

I remain defensive about my driving because I really am a good driver (!) but in six years, I had more (minor) collisions than most. The majority of these were in fact with myself … negotiating a tight space whilst immersed in conversation … kissing pillars that suddenly appeared behind me … ‘that’ incident post going free diving when I found myself having to spring across Beach Road in my bikini because I thought the car was out to blow … I only ever once got a green slip (to denote not guilty) but amassed quite a few pink ones (to denote quite the opposite).

Being carless therefore leaves my bank balance much healthier in the absence of a steady donation to the traffic authorities!

Of course, some people need a car. But there are also so many who don’t … so many who don’t even consider whether they could do without or just use it less. And I wish they would. I find it incredible that so few people walk here and instead choose to drive a short distance in their gas guzzlers. And when it comes to people leaving their engine on to keep the car cool whilst they pop into Spinney’s? Don’t get me started …

I would love to see more people even try for a week or two without using their car. All it takes, as with changes in any area of our lives, is a flexible attitude and a willingness to go that extra mile  …(sorry!!)

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