Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Kuwait Left Turn

I actually first came across the first left turn in Saudi Arabia, and would watch in horrified fascination at the stoplights. Saudi Arabian driving was the worst I have seen, ever, anywhere in the world, but the driving has some inner logic if you are there long enough to get used to it. (I had thought I would hate not driving, but in Saudi Arabia, I was happy not to drive.)

In Saudi Arabia, there was no respect for lanes at all. At a junction there might be four legal lanes; one marked for people turning left, one for people turning right, and two for going straight ahead, but when the light turned red, there would be six or seven or eight cars lined up, all squeezed together, almost door to door. If there is a space, a car will fill it.

And maybe four or five of those cars would turn left, but not necessarily the four cars closest to the left. One might be in the far right turn lane, but going left. Yes, there were accidents, but not so often as you would think.

In Kuwait, they have refined the right-turn-lane-left-turn down to an art. I’ve gotten so used to it I hardly notice it any more, and that is why I am blogging about it now, so I will have it down before it falls of the screen.

Here is how it works. The guy in the far right lane realizes he needs to turn left. First move – he turns the wheels left and inches forward. Second step – this is optional – he gets the attention of the guy to his left and indicates he needs to go left. This is done with a combination of desperate looking eyes and a hand motion. Third step – he continues inching forward. Last step – just as the light is about to change/is changing he shoots out into the intersection, across four lanes of traffic, making his left turn.

There’s no honking. People are used to it.

That the lane second to the left also often goes left, although it is marked to go straight ahead, is a given.

It happens so often, we take it for granted.

The second variation on a left turn is that in Kuwait there are long stretches between stoplights or roundabouts, but there are conveniently marked areas where you can make a u-turn. There are left turn lanes that make it easy. But often, there are people who don’t want to get in line, or maybe realize too late that this is where they need to turn. No problem. They just get right up next to you and start edging their way in. It can be really scary when that someone is a big cement truck, or a bus full of workers.

Sometimes there can be two or three cars making that left turn at the same time. You would think it would be a disaster, and somehow, it all seems to work.

All this is . . . . very creative, refusing to be limited to what the law says is permissible. The problem becomes switching tracks when you go back to a country where the laws are less flexible.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Travel | 7 Comments

Adventures in Driving: Kuwait

I found this great road, 303, that goes all the way from Mishref to Fehaheel. It is a little slower than 30 (Fehaheel Expressway) or 40, with more stop lights, but I like it because it is like a European boulevard, several lanes in each direction, divided with a barrier, and it has a lot of public art – cool and interesting sabilles (the places put up for the people passing by to drink water) and all kinds of models of ships. It’s a nice drive.

(i am discovering that there are several of these roads in Kuwait; you just have to find them. If you always take the same route, you can miss some amazing sights.)

I was stopped by police checks twice, whipping out my freshly legal driver’s licence. At the second stop, every vehicle was stopped – except for the ATV with two boys on it that got on who got on somewhere in the south and went all the way to Mishref. The first I saw them was when they went whizzing by me at the second police check.


That’s them, over to the right, by the sign, with another car behind them. It wasn’t easy to get their photo because they were really hauling. Their little ATV was going faster than any of the cars on the road, and they didn’t bother stopping for red lights, or police checks.

I didn’t think those things had that much power. But I am also wondering why, when the police saw them, they didn’t stop the boys? These kids had no business being on a highway, no licenses, no helmuts, no protective clothing, on a vehicle going as fast as an average car. And they weren’t that easy to see – it was dusk. To their credit, they stayed in the right lane, and they did look both ways before going through the red lights.

I was amazed at how fast that little thing went.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos | 6 Comments