So events move along. After a flurry of paperwork yesterday I got my Emirates driving licence. The process was reasonably straightforward, unlike Cairene bureaucracy, which is ludicrous and corrupt. Step one was translating my UK licence into Arabic (fee – £20) at a recognised government translation bureau (I would have had to sit a test otherwise). Step two was a letter from my visa sponsor stating they had no objection to my having a driving licence. Step three was getting several passport photos, copies of my visa, residence permit, passport and UK licence and taking them all to the Driver Licencing Agency here in Fujairah. Step four was an eye test. Then I went with the current (now previous) owner of the Ford Escape I’m buying as a stopgap (until I can find a Land Rover) to the Vehicle Licencing Agency to get the car signed into my name, insured and registered. This should have been straightforward except that ‘someone’ (I think the rep for the insurance company) copied the car chassis number down incorrectly and this caused a 3 hour delay as they tried to find out who to blame. Third party insurance, by the way, for the Ford for 13 months worked out at 1200Dh, about £230.
Sundry traffic police officials, insurance agents and bureaucrats of varying calibre rushed between offices, stony-faced. In the end it got sorted out amidst much smiling and handshakes. The contrast between my colleague (the car seller) and I was interesting – he was starting to stew and ferment, and ready to start shouting at people. I’ve been schooled in this in Egypt and so retained (outwardly at least) the facade of the smiley polite Brit, lots of handshakes, politeness and grins. It worked and everyone was relieved when things were all signed and sealed. Not least of which my colleague who was selling the car – leaving the UAE for good in ten days’ time, he needed his UAE ID card (statutory for all foreign residents, indeed, everyone in the UAE) to sell the car to me, and yet to leave the country he needed his residency cancelled, for which the UAE ID card should have been handed in three days before.
I have to say that dealing with officialdom here in Fujairah is a huge relief after living in Cairo for so long. Police and government workers are hugely helpful and comparatively efficient. Two senior police officers at the Traffic Department got involved with the mess-up of the insurance paperwork to try and help, and despite being busy with a dozen other jobs they made time to help us out. The guys with the Al Ruweis insurance company were also excellent. It took me ten days, five hundred sterling and a vast amount of stress to get my car registered in Egypt this time last year – here in the UAE it has been a breeze.
Otherwise things have been moving on fast and the game is indeed afoot. Penny the Land Rover has cleared US Customs in Florida and is heading for a garage specialising in British cars to get checked out before her crossing of the American continent. Here in the Gulf I’ve sourced a Garmin Nuvi GPS loaded with Middle Eastern maps, a Bushranger compressor and a recovery kit for the desert season I expect to start in late August when I’m back from the summer’s trips. After 6 months away from the desert I need to get back under open skies, badly. I also need a Land Rover. The Ford’s ok but its lack of low range and diff lock will cause issues, I’m sure.