x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

An idea for commuting the better way

How to make the drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi just a little bit more interesting.

I've been doing the drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi quite a lot lately. So much so that I've started to learn every twist, turn and obscure smelting business along this formidable route.

There's a stretch, for example, where reams of streetlamps extend in a geometric bend to a blank horizon. Or the "Emirates Cafe" that, for some reason, its owner felt had to be advertised with a big saucer-eyed alien wearing headphones. I've started to remember these things like markers, such as when I pass the big "green belt" - where hordes of trees are clustered together in an area I always wonder is accessible - I know I'm almost there. Or the big petrol station that's like a wayfarer's marker between the two cities, and is packed day and night with the portly revelling in junk food.

The amount of time I'm staring down this big, long straight has led me to wonder if something better could be done with the monotonous drive. Of course, if you're behind the wheel, then reading a book is not an option. And if you're in the passenger seat, you don't want to be the antisocial one who just accepts the driver as their chauffeur and combs through magazines.

I did start to wonder if some enterprising soul could put something together on the more lonesome sections of Sheikh Zayed Road to stimulate conversation, though or, failing that, just to stop drivers from drifting off.

So how about a string of solar-powered signs?

Maybe this requires an example: As you hurtle past the city limits of the capital, a board on the side of the road could read: "What is the most expensive city in the world?"

Cue shouts from the back: "Moscow!" Someone else hollers, "London!" The driver shouts, with a smirk "Abu Dhabi!" Groans and chortles.

About half a mile down the road, and several heated banters later, another solar-panelled sign whizzes by, bearing the answer. (The quiet one staring out of the window claims that he knew that).

Now this all might sound quite trite, but those couple of boards have ushered in a conversation that wouldn't have happened otherwise. And, in colleague carpools, they'd be a great ice-breaker.

This could be extended to basic English/Arabic vocabulary lessons, jokes (although that could go horribly wrong) and bulletins about the daily news. A bit of technical wizardry could make great art installations out of them. Because they're LEDs, they'd change every day, creating a different Sheikh Zayed Road slog each time.

Obviously, drivers should be keeping their eye on the road, so a bit of ingenuity would be necessary (along with very short messages). But it would be handy.

And in case you're wondering, the answer is Luanda, in Angola, of all places. Got you thinking though, right?