Huh? My male guardian? Do I have a (male) guardian?!! I am well over 18 years of age. I tried to discuss the matter with the (female) employee of the Traffic Department in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi. I had all the paperwork signed by my sponsor / male guardian. In vain. After I told her I was Al Jazeera's Bureau Chief for Latin America and that I had travelled the whole world alone, she suggested I'd go and get exempted!!
Okay ! So I had to go see an (male) officer who agreed to exempt me from having my (male) guardian accompany me. Accompany me in doing what exactly? Oh, just opening a file at the traffic department!
Then it turns out that after 17 years of driving around the world I had to be sent back to driving school. The UAE does not recognise any of my driver's licenses from the countries where I have lived before.
Yes.. and on top of it I have no choice. I have to go to the Emirates Driving Company, the only school there is, where I had to wait for two hours to be attended to, then asked to pay 300 dollars in fees for my mandatory driving lessons, which I kept saying I really did not need.
I have driven in Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Venezuela, Qatar, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Syria, the UK, the USA, and even the UAE itself in the past (as a tourist). I crossed the Alps at night on a rainy slippery narrow mountainous road. I have driven across Venezuela on rough roads that should not even qualify for being called roads. I have driven for 7 years through Caracas' hellish traffic. I have survived Hong Kong's maze of tunnels, underpasses, overpasses, bridges, highways, etc.
"Just test my driving please!"
It is the law in the UAE. I accept. I respect.
But then I got furious when I found out that others with the same driver's license as me (from Qatar for example) were not sent back to driving school. They got a UAE license in exchange because they were GCC nationals.
I was told by other driving students too that they had a UK license but because they were not UK citizens, their license was not exchangeable.
The system is still vague to me but I understood that there is a list of selected countries. Only if you have a license from - and you are a national of - those countries will you not be sentenced to learning to drive again !
It did not feel right that people (mostly from developing countries) had to pay all this money and invest time while others (mostly from selected rich countries) didn't have to pay a penny nor invest time although both may have the same driving experience!
I am not sure why your nationality would affect your driving skills ! But tough luck.. I am not "selected" !!
One is inevitably left to wonder about this driving school business and how much money the law helps it generate by forcing foreigners to pay for unnecessary mandatory lessons.
To be Continued ...
Read ----> Part II (Falafel Hallucinations)
Read previous UAE Adventures :