In order to drive north, we must drive through Sharjah and Ajman. The cities of Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman are right up against each other. For those of you in Ptld area, it’s kinda like driving from Beaverton, through Portland and then Gresham. Not really a break in between. Sharjah is known mostly for it’s traffic problems. The rents have traditionally been cheaper in Sharjah (that may be changing with the effects of the current economic downturn) and so there is heavy traffic caused by those who live in Sharjah and work in Dubai. They often take hours to get to or from work. Some get up early, drive to work and then get some more sleep in the parking lot before work.
Commuter traffic is not the only issue, however, we ventured into Sharjah and got trapped in the worst detour ever. It went on forever, twisting this way and that. The epitome of the long way around. The picture below shows that there may or may not be three lanes. That truck was actually parked in our lane, so we had to pull around it without colliding with the others trying to navigate this.
We finally got out of the detour nightmare. We were hungry by this time, so started looking for someplace to stop. I’ve mentioned before the lack of infrastructure in Dubai, but Sharjah is far worse. The picture below shows what it is like just one block off a paved street. Paved streets are few and far between. Buildings are put up long before any of the support structures like sewers, streets, sidewalks, etc. Completely backwards from the States where all those things have to go in before a building is even started.
We discovered the Grand Arabian Home Restaurant. Notice the logo – a wood frame house with a wood burning chimney – nothing Arabian about that! The food was marvelous! The fresh squeezed juices were marvelous! Great little discovery.
We saw many beautiful mosques throughout the day. This is the one I managed to get a picture of.
As mentioned in the previous post, we then stopped at Hamariya beach. It looks like Paul is doing a little jig, but the sand is not that hot.
From there, we continued to drive north past Umm Al Qwain to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK for short). In the haze we began to see that there might be mountains. (The haze, by the way is dust kicked up by the wind. All part of being in the desert.)
And, yes, there were mountains!
Along the way we saw camels, donkeys, cows, and goats. Sorry that I didn’t get any pictures. That’s the problem with road trip and seeing things as you speed by them. The traffic is such that it doesn’t allow for “ooo, stop here, I’ve got to take a picture!”
It was getting late and we were not prepared to cross the border into Oman or do an overnight stay, so it was time to turn around and go back home.
Sunset over RAK. (The round ball on the top of a building is the sign that it is an Etisalat building – the major phone company here.)
We avoided the Sharjah traffic problems by getting onto the Emirates Road. This is a freeway through the desert. It is, however, seriously dangerous. The speed limit is 120 kilometers per mile (approx. 75 mph), but the locals drive much faster. We estimate 160 kph (100 mph, I think this is a conservative estimate). The fast lane should be renamed the super sonic lane. To make this worse, they do not believe that they should have to slow down for anything, so they will flash their headlights to let you know that they are coming and it is your duty to get the *bleep* out of the way. So, Paul had his hands full driving in the not so fast middle lane and navigating the occasional passing of someone slower than us before the next speeding vehicle came along. One speeding vehicle forced us out of the way and then proceeded to cross all the lanes in order to exit. Huh?!?!?!?!?! Even after we got into town and were on city streets there were some who thought they were still on the freeway and ought to be able to continue at top speed.
We made it home alive. That’s what counts.