Arabs driving badly: 12 Middle Eastern road habits decoded for foreign motorists

Published December 1st, 2013 - 14:36 GMT

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Yield
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Image 1 of 12: Yield: Researchers are bamboozled by Arabia’s understanding of the yield sign. After placing cameras across the region, it seems that though no one yields - most female drivers were found talking on their phones and the men were picking their noses. Also, it’s the size not the sign that counts -- smaller cars yield to 4 by 4s. Always.

red light camera
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Image 1 of 12: Traffic Light - Yellow means begin acceleration, red means floor it, and green means creep slowly to avoid being nailed by those obeying the red. Stopping at a red light is a rare occurrence unless a traffic light is fitted with a radar camera. Then the tiresome rules of the road are unwillingly followed.

no entry sign
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Image 1 of 12: Do Not Enter - While elsewhere the big red circle sign indicates no entry, in Arabia it means the opposite - it’s an indicator of a shortcut that could be, nay, should be forged. And if there’s an oncoming car, stand your ground. They’ll eventually back off.

bump sign
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Image 1 of 12: Speed Bumps - One of Arabia’s biggest mysteries - the elusive speed bump. Like a sick psychological test, drivers find themselves questioning everything after being warned that a speed bump lies ahead...and there being no bump for 5km. But be warned - it’ll pop up like a desert mirage when you’re least expecting it. Tread lightly, my friends.

no U turn sign
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Image 1 of 12: No U-Turn - According to Arabia’s rule of the road, no U-turn is bad. Despite signs forbidding it, there’s nothing Middle Eastern drivers love more than a leisurely turn around in busy, rush-hour traffic. Bonus points for making one that requires 64 tandems of drive and reverse like Austin Powers in a golf cart.

Hand out the Window
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Image 1 of 12: Hand out the Window = any of the following: I need to get into your lane but waited till the last minute on this road that I drive on everyday..and am a complete failure at driving. I remembered (or conveniently forgot) I want to turn at THIS light last minute so I’m attempting to cross four lanes.

vehicular violation
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Image 1 of 12: Hand on the head- It seems this is the payment for any vehicular violation. By simply patting one's head after running a student driver off the road or blocking rush hour traffic to get out and adjust your mirrors, one will turn the road rage of others into a smile and the sheathing of a once protruding middle finger.

Horn Beeping
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Image 1 of 12: Beeping - Considered serious road rage elsewhere, horn-honking is a vital part of driving Arab-style. Beep to prevent cars pulling out, when being passed, someone's reversing, to say hi, & to announce your arrival at minor intersections, even rudely at night. Arabs love to beep you into gear when the light goes green - perhaps the ME's colorblind?

traffic jam
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Image 1 of 12: Traffic Circles - It’s a dog-eat-dog world and nowhere is this more clear than roundabouts. Don’t make eye contact, (what signals?) edge out slowly (blocking fuming traffic behind you) and never feel guilty when cutting across the circle at a solid 90 degree angle & gassing it to your exit. Just honk at anyone who couldn’t read your mind.

bad parking
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Image 1 of 12: No Parking - Prohibited parking is a Russian roulette - 9/10 chances, your car will stay ticketless but there’s always a risk of the warden’s pen. But Friday prayer, laissez-faire: during the Holy Hour, anything goes - double/triple parking on the highway, blocking a main road...as long as you’re 1/4 of a mile within a mosque. Alhumdulillah.

Taxi Etiquette
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Image 1 of 12: Taxi Etiquette - There may be a belief among taxis that they own every Arab street because that's how they drive. Be prepared to be cut off, nudged off and ticked off on a daily basis by these daredevils. If you happen to be in the taxi, close your eyes and go to a happy place; “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

ambulance in traffic jam
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Image 1 of 12: Emergency vehicles - While you may be tempted to allow the screeching sirens of an ambulance to overtake you on their way to an emergency, DON’T. It seems most Arabs are convinced these ambulances need to wait their turn. However, if you do let one pass, follow in its carbon footprint and ride that emergency gravy train as far as possible!

Are you heading to the Arab world and planning on renting some wheels? Your friends at Al Bawaba have decided not to let you go out there naked. Through years of near misses and full-on fender benders, our crack staff has compiled a dozen of the most important rules for driving on the Arab roads.

Print these out, tape them to your passport and study them every waking moment if you know what's good for you. Searing these twelve rules into the subconscious of your brain can only cure the initial shock of these quirky and downright obnoxious highway habits. When these concepts become physically embedded in your mind, then and only then will you be able to handle the twists and turns of the Arab streets.

Walk like an Egyptian? How about maneuvering a KIA down a one-way street like an Egyptian! Study these rules (there’s no exam!) and we’ll save you the trouble of writing us a thank you email - you're welcome.

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The patting on the head means "Your right that I've just invaded is above my head a.k.a respected" It's overused but it's a kind of an apology, Though not many are sincere, But it's super effective in any encounter in Arabia.

Omar Al Matar (not verified) Sun, 12/01/2013 - 21:50

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