Is this the end of Saudi Arabia as we know it?
I was truly astonished when I noticed the installation of parking meters in downtown Khobar.
Traffic management is a rudimentary concept to the Western world but the shock to me here is this is being introduced amongst a people who have no qualms, and indeed often feel no shame, at parking like this…
And that’s not someone photographed mid three-point-turn or parked precariously for five minutes while he quickly nips to the shop. This is overnight parking!
In fact the word “park” isn’t appropriate here at all.
The verb “to park” contains shades of meaning that suggests that the action is “out of the way” or “to one side.” A more accurate verb that describes what I witness on a daily basis would be “to stop.”
It is more a process of discontinuing the car’s motion, removing the keys and subsequently walking away from it. With little, or often no, attempt to position the car so that it is not causing an obstacle to other vehicles or pedestrians.
In England I witnessed double-parking; here I see triple-parking and don’t even blink owing the familiarity that it possesses. And to describe a street close to a masjid on jumu’ah would require the usage of words like quintuple or larger.
I’m trying to picture the scene of the first local who’s confronted by a Traffic Warden.
“Excuse me, but you can’t park like that!”
“Your car needs to be straight and off the road, parked within these lines *points*”
“Lines? Ish hatha, lines? Lines, ish?”
“And you need to pay too!”
“Bay, ish bay?”
“You know? Give money to leave your car here!”
“La, La, La! Ana Fulan bin Fulan Al-Fulani… *wanders off to collect his thobes from the dry cleaners*”