Posted by: Catherine Weston | February 28, 2012

How to Cross a Road in Sharjah

A couple of weeks ago I was standing by a busy road, attempting to cross.  My destination was a small grocery store on the other side. It was only one block away from my hotel, perhaps a five minute walk, but here was the problem:  how was I to cross the road to reach it?

After five minutes waiting fruitlessly as heavy traffic streaked past, I began thinking along these lines: maybe unattended women should not be walking out in the middle of the day trying to find a grocery store?  What if the drivers of the cars speeding past were thinking, “What is that crazy foreign woman trying to do?” or “Why doesn’t she shop at a sensible hour, or go to the mall like everyone else?”

The road was dual carriageway, with a strip of grass and palm trees in the middle as a buffer zone. I was in a built up area, but it was like trying to cross a motorway. There was no sign of any kind of pedestrian crossing either. I toyed with the idea of hailing a taxi, and asking the driver to take me round the roundabout at the end of the block and bring me back on the other side, all of 50 metres away.  Then I spotted a pharmacy on my side of the road.  I entered and found a young woman, wearing the traditional black robes and headscarf of the local people, chatting on the phone.  “Do you speak English?” Yes of course she did, quite fluently. “Forgive me, I feel rather foolish but I am a stranger here.  I have just arrived.  Please can you tell me how I can cross the road here?”

The young woman smiled ruefully and said, “Yes, it is a problem.  You just have to go slowly, slowly – and then RUN!” So I took my courage in my hands and did exactly as she said.

The lesson I learned is that, in the culture of the Gulf states, the right to drive very fast in your top-of-the-range motor is more important than the convenience of pedestrians.

A two-and-a-half-week trip to the United Arab Emirates provides little opportunity to make any conclusive observations about the local culture, particularly as 80% of the population are foreigners!  However I do have another hypothesis about the Emiratis, based on two further encounters – they are friendly and warm people with a keen sense of fun! But my reasons for drawing that conclusion will have to wait for another day.

The road in question, but without any indication of speed!



  1. […] suicidal taxi drivers in Turkey, of the cleanliness and punctuality of Swiss trains, of trying to cross the road in UAE and the contrast between scenic beauty and evident poverty on the journey from Cape Town […]

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