It took me 40 minutes to get to work today, and I live just 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the office: 20 minutes to get a taxi and 20 minutes more to negotiate through traffic.
We are trying to decide where to live, and this certainly is a factor.
On Tuesday evening, I went to look at two different villas -- my first foray into house hunting. They both were large and appealing and relatively affordable, traits I'm led to believe are rare here. But they were also just off the island of Abu Dhabi, in an area imaginatively called "Between the Bridges." Between the bridges also means "pretty darn far from anything."
What makes that particular area appealing for most expatriates is its residential feeling. The neighborhoods are desert suburbs, with three-story villas lining each brand-new road. But you have to have a car to live here, and that's something Paul and I agree on: Neither of us wants to drive in this city or even in this country.
Every day is like Mr Toad's Wild Ride, and I can't figure out why people are such bad drivers here. Traffic-related deaths in the UAE are behind only Afghanistan and Iraq, and alongside Niger and Angola. That is, it is probably the most-developed country with the worst traffic accidents.
Living in the "suburbs" can make for a nice quality of life, but as in California, if you spend all your time on the road, then that quality is already diminished. The agent said we could arrange for a regular driver to take us to work, but what about groceries and errands? Even walking a few hundred meters (which I find to be a conservative guess) is not an option in this heat.
We have also ruled out Dubai. The neighboring emirate has a lot going for it. It has a thriving nightlife and lots of activities. Its beaches are lovely and the rents are much more affordable. But it's a 90-minute drive away. No dice.
So I'm starting my search. I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, only what I'm not. I would like to be near work and near a taxi stand. I would like a clean neighborhood without too much traffic. I would love a nearby park. An ocean view is probably out of my price range, but I did see an ad that looked too good to be true: 1 bedroom, 900 sq feet, with a sea view, near a good mall and affordable. I can only guess what's wrong with it. I'll surely call and see.
I had thought we had plenty of time to look since our temporary housing (a one-bedroom hotel room of about 650 sq feet) is good for two months. But others have suggested it will take nearly a month to do the paperwork, and if getting a bank account has been any indication (yes, non sequitur) they are all right. So I've looked a bit online, and made some notes. Colleagues are passing along tips about neighborhoods ad agents.
Let the search begin.
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