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13 Nov, Tuesday
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Waiting and waiting for a taxi in Abu Dhabi

TODAY marks my two-month anniversary of having arrived in Abu Dhabi and one of the major differences that I have noted in contrast to Jeddah, where I moved from, are the taxis.

Taxis here are cheaper than in Jeddah. The meter here starts at 2 dirhams in the older gold and white taxis, while even the new silver taxis only start at 2.65 dirhams. In Jeddah all taxis start at SR5, and even the shortest ride will cost a minimum of SR10. Here, most of my taxi rides cost 5 dirhams or less, with the exception of trips to Marina Mall that usually cost 7-10 dirhams.

The other difference is the lack of taxis in Abu Dhabi. In Jeddah I used to see a virtual sea of taxis whenever I went out, most of the empty and looking for passengers. Here, there seem to be less taxis and consequently a longer wait for them too. Last week, an old friend and colleague was visiting from Riyadh and we were heading out to Abu Dhabi Mall after 5 p.m. on a Thursday. We waited for 45 minutes in a total of three different locations before we were finally able to get a taxi! Every taxi that went by before that was either occupied or the driver was refusing to pick up passengers because he was rushing home to eat or pray at the mosque.

One would think that standing in a taxi queue outside a major mall would guarantee fairly swift transport home. Not so. Avoid Wahda Mall at all costs if you don’t fancy standing outside in cold wind for an hour waiting for a taxi. For some reason, taxis all of kinds seem to avoid that mall like the plague, don’t ask me why.

Marina Mall can be quite dicey too, especially late at night, after 9 p.m., when the number of shoppers taking taxis out to the mall diminish dramatically. There you will find the illegal private taxi touts standing near the taxi stand and looking furtively around as they mumble: “Taxi, sir, taxi?” When you ask how much, they usually cite 40 dirhams, to which I just politely shake my head and say “No, thank you.”

The best mall for catching a taxi, at least so far, has been Abu Dhabi Mall. I was there last night and only had to wait 10 minutes before being whisked home in a cab. A long line of taxis waiting to pick up passengers outside the mall meant that even though around 20 people were ahead of me and my friend, we didn’t have to wait long for a taxi.