Touring Oman: Zaher Drives Us Back to Muscat

Passing One Year of His Majesty's Call to Minimise Road Accidents. Traffic Safety Day - First Anniversary Stamp. 18 October 2010

On the way home we chatted and told jokes.  When we hit the highway, the ding, ding, ding started.  I said to Zaher,

“It was so nice when the bell was not going off.”

He slowed to 120 kilometers per hour and we sat quietly wondering who was going to blow first.

About halfway back we needed to pull over for petrol.

It was nearly 4pm.

Zaher had a hard time keeping his foot from pressing the pedal.  The ding, ding, ding would come on and he would jokingly shush it as the car decelerated.

Suddenly we came to a complete stop.  At least two kilometers ahead of us, the mountain highway was a parking lot.

“Oh my god,” Zaher kept repeating.  “There must be a terrible accident.”

We waited in one of the two lanes of traffic.  After twenty minutes of not moving, Zaher could not take it.

He turned right and started driving down the road’s shoulder.  He kept looking out into the desert.  Other four-wheel SUVs had already pulled out of the traffic and were crossing the desert to a dirt side road.  With the low Camry, he had to wait for the right opportunity to pull out into the desert.

I observed one Land Rover stuck in a dry stream as cars waited behind it and said to Zaher “that car is stuck.  Be careful where you are driving.  I don’t want to get a puncture.”

He looked at me, “We have a spare and you are two strong women.”

“Oh no,” I told him.  “I am older than you and my knees are aching.”

That kept him from driving into the desert.  Instead he continued driving on the right hand shoulder passing all the other cars.  Several cars began following us.

An ambulance came up from behind trying to get through to the accident.  It slowed to a crawl because the line of cars Zaher led on the right hand shoulder blocked its path.

“An ambulance is coming,” I told him.  “There are probably people who are hurt.  You’d better get out of the way.”

Zaher forced our car back into the traffic leaving just enough for the ambulance to scoot through.  As soon as it passed, he pulled right again and followed closely behind.

It sped ahead only to be stopped completely by another white Camry.   The white Camry did not move out of the way despite the ambulance driver trying to use the siren to push it out of the way.

We did make progress following the ambulance.  Finally the white Camry pulled back into the traffic, creating quite a pile-up.

I am somewhat used to this type of driving.  I decided if he doesn’t care, it’s not my car.  If it gets dented….

Still I could not keep my mouth shut.

“There’s a police officer up ahead,” I informed him.  “He is giving that guy a ticket.”

The police officer was waving for the white Camry to get out of the way to make room for the ambulance.  The ambulance got through and the officer seemed to be writing the guy a ticket.

Zaher pulled left between two large trucks.  He squeezed in between the bumpers that were even with our heads.  I didn’t say anything.  I thought, I am not his mother.  I am not his employer.  I am not his wife.

He began weaving and maneuvering into the left hand lane, forcing his way around the trucks.  Once in the left lane, we discovered the police were funneling people back into the right lane.  Zaher negotiated his way through and around the cars, waving and beeping, forcing them to halt and let us through.  No dings, no hits.

We finally got to the ten car and the one hundred air conditioner accident.  A large truck carrying air conditioners fell over while swerving to miss a five car pile up in front of him.  People were strewn across the road holding their heads.

“Wow wow wow,” said Zaher as he slowed to three kilometers an hour to look at the damage.

As soon as we passed the mess, he pressed the gas and we were at 150 – ding ding ding ran the bell.  But he didn’t care.

Five kilometers flew by before we were suddenly in another traffic jam.

“What is going on?” he said.  Tired of being a tour guide, he pulled his ghuttra off his bald head and threw it down on the center brake and unbuttoned his top button.  Now he was the real Zaher.

Again he started pushing his way through the traffic until we were absolutely stopped by a big jam around a huge tanker that had turned over in the road.

The tanker was so large a huge crane had been set up in the road to hoist it from the ground.  The crane operator had to have nerves of steel as he lifted the tanker.  Cars filled with families sat within a foot of the crane beeping and swerving around its braces as they squeezed their way through the traffic.  Police officers tried controlling the chaos but people drove in literally every direction to get around the crane.

Zaher managed to get around the crane and sped into Muscat.

“Oh no,” Zaher started moaning as we entered the city and slowed again.  “It is Thursday night.  Festival night.

As much as Zaher tried, he could not outwit the traffic.

We found ourselves at six-way intersection with cars standing still in virtually every direction.  Instead of waiting behind the line where the traffic light stopped us, Zaher plunged into the middle as soon as a tiny space was made. We were surrounded by a sea of cars.  No one could move as no one gave an inch.

We sat in the intersection for about fifteen minutes through at least eight changes in the traffic signal.  Absolutely zero cars moved.

Suddenly a space opened up.  The police had arrived.

Gesturing and shouting, they got the unruly drivers out of the intersection and back to following the lights.  Within three lights we zoomed through the center of the intersection, made a left and found ourselves on the road to the Crown Plaza.

We pulled at 6pm.  Not bad, our itinerary said we would return by 5pm.  I really didn’t want to congratulate him on getting us back so timely as I didn’t agree with how he did it.  I didn’t complain though and we tipped him well.

“That was a lot of traffic,” I said.  “At least we made it back in one piece.”

“Usually I am back here by 3pm,” he complained.

I didn’t take the personal business card he offered.  We bid good-bye.

Inside, Goldi and I washed up then headed down to the pool side bar to recover from our day.

The next morning, I really couldn’t imagine Sultan Qaboos was happy when he read about both accidents in the newspaper.  It was barely three months after Traffic Safety Day.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:30:42

    I hope alcohol is available in Oman because after a ride like that you’d need it.

    Reply

    • Eva the Dragon
      Mar 03, 2012 @ 18:01:03

      Yes it is as a matter a fact. “Drinks for all,” we told the bartender. We were so relieved to be back.

      Reply

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