Sunday, September 15, 2013

Doha Traffic Woes

Stick your head in the sand. Just do it. It's often a more viable option than having to deal with the traffic in Qatar. Our first year, we were dead determined to explore all the many corners of our new home, and so we did, often paying the price by spending hours sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As the year wore on, we found ourselves picking and choosing our destinations more carefully, considering factors such as day of the week, time of the day, and our own general levels of irritability.

le traffic FOU de Doha
Ya, we never even bother going to this part of the city anymore.
By year two, our limits became more defined, especially with my growing pregnant belly, and then a newborn baby. We avoided traffic most evenings, thinking twice and three times before going out for dinner. And when we did go, sometimes to Souq Waqif, we often regretted the decision, first fighting traffic, then parking, then our own annoyance as hungry tummies demanded to be fed. I still have terrible memories of waiting, with Nathan and Rose and Kaiya, and merely-weeks-old Isabelle, at the Spring Festival at Souq Waqif, while Jeff desperately tried to make his way back with the Pathfinder from our far-flung parking spot. Our texts became more urgent as baby came closer to feeding time. "They keep blocking more roads! The light has changed 5 times and I've only moved up 4 spaces!" He finally found us and we vowed to NEVER do that again. (Well, at least not till the Souq's parking garage is constructed).

And now, year three, the traffic madness continues. Over the summer, we tried to mostly ignore Doha News reports on our Facebook feeds, warning of road construction covering an ever-increasing number of streets, including the whole of Doha's much loved Corniche. All part of Doha's booming population, and the push to get ready for 2022.

Vehicles are seen in a traffic jam at Doha's corniche February 15, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous
Oh, beloved, crazy-busy Corniche. Taken from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/17/us-qatar-future-idUSTRE81G1PX20120217

But when we came back, it was not to be ignored. Our neighbour told stories of her daughter's bus time being put back by one full hour to accommodate the road madness. "They want to pick her up at 5:20 in the morning! What am I to do?" I silently muttered my thanks for the fact that Kaiya's school is a short back-roads drive away. The closer we came to the start of school, the thicker the mass of cars became as expats returned to dizzy Doha after their summer adventures. And then, this week, it all came crashing in. "Carmageddon," as Doha News titled it. A 15-minute drive to work suddenly took 45 minutes. Three lane roads became parking lots, with the more aggressive using right shoulders and slip roads to try bypassing the worst of the crowd. My bumper almost kissed the one in front of me a number of times as I continued nudging forward, trying not to let the skippers merge back in.

I am increasingly thankful for the new mall that has opened nearby. Ironically, the one with the Tim Horton's in it. It's literally a two-minute drive away, without even the need to hop across the Shamal. And go figure, an even bigger mall is set to open right next to it. I keep joking that soon our driving will be limited to work, the Lulu Hypermart just down the street, and those two malls. Wait... who am I kidding? Our driving IS already mostly limited to those places. With two small children, it's not worth the aggravation of going much farther.

Thankfully we still have Friday mornings. Friday, the holy day, day for worship and family. Ahhhh... Friday mornings. They continue to be a thing of beauty. Friday mornings, filled with memories of my first daring ventures onto Doha roads, learning to navigate the many roundabouts. Friday mornings, offering the promise of carefree driving ... easy stops at coffee shops and blissfully empty roads. Where shall we go today? We are thankful that one day a week, at least until about 4pm, Doha driving is still fairly tame. Otherwise, this adventuring family might actually go insane. 

And as a total aside, I saw this video in Ezdan Mall the other day (ya it really is only two minutes away. Think the security guards already know my name!) I was really impressed. Perhaps changes are slowly on their way.

1 comment:

Rose said...

Absolutely ridiculous. That night at the Souq was terrible, but a truly Qatari experience for us tourists. How many other women with babies were waiting along the same road? The whole thing really boggles the mind...