I can’t imagine how I could have been so worried. I mean, I had four days left until my car insurance ran out. OK, so my car registration had expired and so technically speaking I was driving illegally, but that is par for the course in the Emirates, and only attracts a fine of 50 dirhams – or less than $14.
With no residence visa any longer in my passport, I was not able to renew the registration, so my poor baby would have to go.
My alarm went off at 8am. And it was the weekend! That’s how anxious I was. Before I even went to make myself some breakfast I thought I’d post an advert up for my poor baby; then I’d down some cornflakes and coffee, before cleaning her paintwork and readying her to take her over to the Mall of the Emirates where I would put her on display near the RTA car registration compound.
It didn’t quite work like that.
Everyone who is anyone in the UAE knows that the way to sell things is to put adverts up on dubizzle.com and souq.com. Both web sites advertise for free, presumably to attract visitors in order to attract advertising.
At 8.45 I signed in to dubizzle and entered the vital statistics. Well, that is to say, I entered the information I knew. It asked how many cylinders the engine had and how many horsepower. As if I had ever checked! Sheepishly I ticked the ‘unknown’ boxes, determining to go and check on how many cylinders it had after breakfast.
I hit the ‘publish’ button and then entered the URL for souq.com. But before I had time even to enter the type of car on this second site, my phone started to ring. Have you sold the car yet? I want to buy it. Please take the advert offline and I will meet you in half an hour at the RTA.
Well, that wasn’t bad I thought! In fact how lucky was that timing? The caller sounded anxious to get it all done as soon as possible, and rather than lose a potential customer for the car I agreed to meet him, without even having any breakfast to send me on my way.
At 8.49 I took the advert offline as requested. That meant that it was online for four minutes. And my phone just rang solidly for the next three hours with everyone in Dubai seemingly wanting to buy my little beauty.
I hadn’t even removed all my junk from the inside of the car; hadn’t got round to washing it (there were sand streaks all over and it had a filthy windscreen); I hadn’t dug out my car registration documents or the maintenance record; or anything.
But I managed to get to the RTA at 9.15 and drove the car straight into the test bay area where I was met by Abdul. It was only at that point that I realised I had picked up the wrong file – my insurance file rather than the maintenance file. It doesn’t matter, he said. I’ll still take it.
Would he try to beat me down on the price? No. It appeared his word was his bond. He told me that he was a dealer and that he intended to export the car; as long as it passed its test, he would buy it.
At 9.27 the car was given a clean bill of health. Abdul had a word with one of the Emiratis behind the desk – I could see they knew each other well – and he told me that apart from my 50Dhs fine for late re-registration, I had no fines outstanding.
At 9.29 I was following him down Sheikh Zayed Road in the direction of Karama where we would ‘do the deal’. He drove a beat-up Nissan Tiida while I struggled to follow him as he skipped from lane to lane. We arrived in Karama at 9.45, parked the car in a lock-up garage and then I got into his car.
With no further questions asked, he started counting out a pile of 500Dhs notes, which I gratefully stuffed into my trouser pocket. (I thought of that well-worn joke… Female-to-male: Are you pleased to see me, or is that just a pile of 500Dhs notes in your pocket?)
We took off again in his car to another area in Karama and pulled in to a lay-by which was clearly marked Drop Off Zone Only. We parked and walked into a building where an Emirati was surrounded by piles of cash, piles of car registration documents and piles of Salik top-up cards.
It was here that I finally understood why the phone calls had almost all come from Pakistani-sounding voices. The Emirati obviously had a network of these people to scour the web sites for people about to sell their cars, jump in fast with an offer and then ship the cars out to Europe to make a quick killing. Abdul had already admitted that it didn’t really matter what type of car it was; they were always interested.
At 10.15 the paperwork was all completed, Abdul ‘generously’ said he would deal with the late registration fine and with a shake of the hand, I was out of the door and heading to the metro station. Just 90 minutes after first placing the advert!
An hour and a quarter later I was able to dig in to my cornflakes and coffee and outside in the street was an empty space where my poor beloved baby had been sunning herself for the past few weeks.
My poor baby. We had been through thick and thin together over the last three years. And now I would have to rely on the public transport system – at least until such time as I either got a new residence visa or left the country for pastures new.
Oh, and as a final postscript, I didn’t get asked by a single female on the way home whether I was pleased to see her. I guess that sums up my life right now!
I am grateful to my friend Irene for sending me the following pictures - it reminds me that one can cope perfectly well getting the shopping home without the need for a car...
oh, OK - maybe I don't normally go to Carrefour to bring home the bacon...
... but vegetables - well that's a different matter...
And of course, if I were to get lucky, the journey home could be quite fun as well...