It was fun while it lasted but now that the fuel subsidies have been lifted, the chances of me burning expensive gas to drive to the corner grocery store for a loaf of bread and a bottle of fresh milk, are going to be a thing of the past.
“Let’s just order home delivery, it’s free,” my wife is very likely to say, and I can imagine myself on one weekend standing at the corner bus stop to take the public transport to go to a movie theatre.
I have nothing against public transport; it is cheap, you get to enjoy the scenery (at least during the non-peak rush hours) but it is well, so public and you have to share space with complete strangers and look at their foreheads all the time.
It’s amazing how things can change so suddenly. When I first came to this region, people joked about how drinking water was more expensive than gas (or baanzeen in Arabic, or petrol if you prefer the British version).
That never really went home to me as I was being driven around in the company car, and on the weekends when I wanted to explore Jeddah. I took the dababa, the mini-buses run by Yemeni immigrants. I was never really a “Green” person at that time, (though now I drive everyone batty in my home bagging our garbage separately into plastic, paper and cans) and when I bought my first car it was a tiny Japanese one where you fill in gas and never go back to the gas station again for months.
“How much does it give?” asked a new colleague freshly arrived from India, looking with admiration at my car. “What’s the mileage?” he said, when I looked puzzled. “How many miles per litre.”
“Who cares,” I said laughing crazily, when I finally got what he meant. “Man, do you know how many barrels of oil are pumped up and shipped out every day?”
When I arrived in Dubai, I went with the flow and got a Nissan Sunny. At that time, if you did not drive a Nissan Sunny, people would look at you strangely. Then after years of suffering in traffic jams with a manual shift, I went and got a gas-guzzling American car.
A Pakistani colleague sat in my car one day and in his flowery Urdu and admiration in his voice said, “This is like sitting in my mother’s lap.”
Leaving them far behind
I love this car, especially when I step on the gas when the traffic lights turn green. As I look in the rear-view mirror it gives me cruel satisfaction seeing the rest of the crowd still floundering at the traffic light.
Then I realised that everyone in Dubai is a sporty person, drives a humongous SUV (sports utility vehicle) and go dune-bashing in the lovely gold-coloured sands just outside the city limits.
Or so I thought. When I asked a tiny colleague climbing out of an SUV why she drove such a large vehicle, she said that it was “safe”. People drove these mini tanks because they were scared of each other on the roads!
I was on the verge of looking at a V8 when it was announced that the cheap ride will soon be over.
I am not sure how much I pay per litre now (my son says Dh 1.72, which works out to Dh5.4 per litre in Toronto or Dh3.46 in Delhi) but a full tank costs me about Dh100 per week.
It’s strange how things move in circles. Maybe I will have to look at a Nissan Sunny again.
Mahmood Saberi is a freelance journalist based in Dubai.