Before coming to Qatar I had arranged for a temporary International Driving License, I just produced my Irish License to the office on South Mall, paid a nominal amount, and received the international driving license, valid for 6 months. Now that six months had nearly expired, it was compulsory now for me to obtain a Qatari License.
As with all official business, this was to be organized through my sponsor, i.e.my husband, through his company. Without delay the company sent me out a form to be completed and the address of the place I was to attend in order to take the driving test, Al Nadir Opti, Ubta Bin Shammas Street, Al Gharaffa, Doha, fairly simple. They also listed the documents I was to take with me, Photographs and the “Application for Driving Test” form.
Over the days prior to the test, on my way to and from work, I practiced my road manners, which I have to admit had taken a turn for the worst especially since moving to Doha. Aggressive driving was the only way to maintain ones position on the road in Doha and there wasn’t must room for hesitancy or over cautious driving, given that in Qatar, when someone flashes their lights, it means, “I’m coming, get out of my way”, so does, horn blowing, hand gestures and putting on your hazards. Just to note at this point that rarely have I made my way to and from work with witnessing some type of car accident. Preparation for the test took me right back to my first driving test in Sarsfield Road about 500 years ago. I was driving an imported Nissan Micra, (mass imported not specifically imported for me) I turned up to the driving test centre fifteen minutes early and met with my tester. We drove around Togher and Wilton for about half an hour, where I thought he’d run out of ink at the rate he was writing on the clipboard. We returned to the test centre where I was asked the theory questions. Finally judgment time came and I heard the words, I’d heard so many times from previous teachers, as the tester ran his fingers through his hair, looking as if he didn’t know where to start, he opened with “Denise, you’re a lovely girl, but…”. I knew the rest. The second test, weeks later, went much more smoothly, after I got a few tips, number one, always, always, always; take the handbrake off whilst driving.
Having gained a considerable amount of confidence on the road since those days, I was surprised when I felt nervous as the test day loomed near. I was glad for the fact that I was pregnant and felt that maybe they would take some pity on me. When the day arrived, I rocked up my with Nissan X-Trail looking immaculate, despite its 197,556 klms on the clock, all water bottles were cleaned out of the car, along with shoes, cardigans, pens, bits of paper and the track of the sticker from the passenger window, where I had been clamped a few weeks ago. Seat belts all present and working, lights, indicators, horn working and a shine off the bonnet that would blind you. I walked into the door of Al Nader Opti ( which I presumed meant Driving Test Centre ) surprised to see that I was in fact in an opticians, aha, that’s what the “Opti” part meant, this must be the first part of the test.
The efficient young Pakistani girl quickly noticed that I was pregnant and suggested I skip the queue and make my way to a chair in the back room to complete the eye test. Delighted to be offered the chance to the skip the small but slow moving queue I promptly made my way to the back room. Moments later she re-appeared telling me that the optician was out at the moment, and that she could ,”make some small test that would be ok for driving”, again, delighted with the lack of protocol I smiled eagerly, she then proceeded to show me two charts, not concerned with the thick white line painted across the floor, she stood in front of me and asked me to read the bottom line of each, one had four letters the other had four numbers, I read these easily and she told me, “you are now finished, well done”. Going back out to the front desk she proceeded to stamp my application form and photographs, as she smiled and said again, “well done” you will have your license in a few days, I even received a few smiles of congratulations from the people in the queue. The only thing left to ask was, “does anyone know why there are so many road traffic accidents in Qatar?”, but I daren’t ask, instead, I took myself off for a nice lunch to celebrate my achievement.