Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar

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528619 is the registration plate on my car. I bought it new in December 2012 and now in May 2014 the current registration numbers are in the 600600s. I am assuming that this means that there have been just less than 80,000 new cars on the road since I started driving in Doha. Despite all the improvements, the road are certainly more crowded with cars than when we first arrived

There are no published figures that I can find on the number of vehicles that disappear from the roads each year, either through age or more often, I suspect, due to being written-off in car accidents, but the numbers appear to be growing in proportion to the expansion in population.

Amongst the 6-figure number plates like the one on my car, there are also many cars with 5 digits. I have also seen quite a few cars with 4 digit plates, fewer with 3 digit plates, but so far none with only two numbers.

Unlike the UK where the number and letter combinations on car registrations give various options for personalisation, a numeric-only number plate gives no opportunity for creativity. Low numbers are much sought after as well as higher numbers that have repeats or patterns such as 123321 or 121212 and so on.

55555 reportedly sold for $3.7 million in 2009, however 8310 is currently on offer for a more modest 75,000QR. These numbers are almost always on high-end vehicles, rarely on an ordinary car like mine and almost always driven by locals.


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Body space

We have just returned from a few days in Kuala Lumpur. One of the advantages of living in this part of the world, is that other parts of the world which are a long way from the UK are now 7 hours closer and so much easier to visit.

Apart from the ‘green’, the first thing that struck me as we took a taxi from KL airport into the city was the calm and considerate driving. In February we visited Kerala in India where the driving was even more chaotic than Doha. A large proportion of the drivers in Qatar are from India, so I am fairly sure they have bought their driving style with them, contributing to the unique road experience that is driving in Doha.

When I learned to drive, the ‘stopping distance’, that is the space between vehicles according to speed and road conditions, was a question that was likely to be asked during the driving test. The gap between the car in front of you is an extension of personal body space… too close and I begin to feel uncomfortable.

Culturally, personal body space varies between different nationalities, however in a car, there are much more practical reasons to keep a safe distance. In Doha I try to keep a sensible, two or three car lengths when travelling at moderate speed. Yet if you leave a space in Doha, someone will certainly change lane and fill in the gap, which means I slow down to let the new gap increase… and of course the cycle repeats.