Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Sea of Prados...

[cars&trucks1_blog.JPG]Well as the cartoon clearly identifies, we have officially joined the masses. I, like so many of my comrades, (witness the Toyota advertisement that the PDO school parking lot at drop off or pick up resembles) drive a silver, standard issue Land Cruiser Prado and although I am sad to admit it, do in fact listen to Hi FM. 

My excuses for this radio heresy (Forgive me Michael Enright!) are threefold...

Firstly, there are only two English speaking radio stations gracing Oman's airways and both offer a blend of what can only be called hip hop pop crop (I know that crop isn't the correct word, but crap doesn't rhyme ;+).  Secondly, I don't own my own IPod, hint hint.  Lastly, as scintillating as the many lectures on how the teachings of the Koran fit into my life today (afternoon programming on 90.4 FM, the other English language radio offering), I find remixed 80's dance tunes less painful to listen to.

Once I got my feet dirty (literally, as everything here is covered in a fine layer of sand) and I realized that I did in fact need to take the driving plunge as an expat Mom in Muscat, we rented a small Nissan Tiida.

After a week of being proudly energy conscious in a country where the law for expats seems to be "the shorter you are, the larger your car" (the number of tiny Asian women driving Suburban's and Hummers seems to support my hypotheses) it became clear that a larger vehicle was in order.  With minivans non-existent here in Oman, the inevitability of me driving a 4wd became reality before you could say gas guzzler.

Besides needing to taxi the kids and their many friends to and from the beach, juggle the many diverse after school activities that three children can engage in along with delivering said three children to and from play dates that have been arranged between aforementioned commitments, we needed a vehicle to take us comfortably to Dubai, camping and wherever else our Omani adventures took us.

After a quick survey of the general expat population, we decided that a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado was the best vehicle choice for us.  Toyota truly owns the market share here in Oman!  My best guesstimate is that approximately 50% of vehicles on the road are some sort of Toyota (both 4wd and saloon car) and if you factor in Lexus and Dhiatsu, that market share skyrockets to around 75% of vehicles on the roadways.  

I would imagine that being a Toyota salesman in Oman is a pretty lucrative career compared with many of the other employment options that most non-professional immigrants would find themselves working.

Just a quick note about driving in Oman, although the rules of the road are the same as those in North America (we drive on the right side of the road) the enaction of the rulebook ends there.  Oman has an inordinately high rate of serious traffic accidents per capita "Oman’s road traffic death rate is 28 per 100,000 population which is far higher than the global average of 19 killed per 100,000." The single most compelling reason for this is that the average driver in Oman tends to be a young male (under 25) in a fast car with very little understanding of basic road safety.  

Drivers in Oman tend to be VERY aggressive and in my opinion reckless!  I have driven in several large North American cities but have never been frightened to drive because of the conditions on the road posed by other drivers.

Driving on a typical day, you will encounter;

 - excessive speeding, although all Omani cars are equipt with a speed alarm that sounds when the driver goes beyond the limit of 120 km/hr this doesn't seem to be a deterent
- drivers texting while driving in addition to speaking on GSM's while eating McDonalds's, drinking a coffee and reading the local edition of Muscat Daily
- illegally attempting to overtake you in either the right lane or more often than not, in the buffer zone on the side of the roadway beside the far right lane
- tailgating, sometimes closely ennough that your rear bumper collision sensors will sound
- driving drunk, although this is illegal and punishible by jail time or deportation if caught
- drivers neglecting to use any form of indicator signals, with the one exception being a driver texting in addition to speaking on his GSM's while eating McDonalds's, drinking a coffee and reading the local edition or Muscat Daily, flashing their high beams at you rapidly while attempting to overtake you at 130 km+ in a 50 km zone although there are 3 full lanes of traffic on either side of you, thus making it impossible for you to move even if you wanted to and if you by chance did change lanes to let said idiot pass, impossible for the overtaking driver to move any further forward than the spot you just vacated thus annoying the expat driver in front of you, also following traditional road etiquette and traffic safety rules.

You get the picture.  Well more for another day.

A demain...

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