Ray Webster takes a Taxi Home via Al Maktoum Bridge 1970s
Al Maktoum Bridge opened in 1963 as a fixed bridge, modified in 1970 to include a Lifting Section allowing dhows and small ships access to Al Jadaf Ship Repair Yard and Cement Storage Sheds in the Upper Creek. Around 3pm each afternoon the Lifting Bridge was raised for an hour or more then again around 1am. Any motorist stopped on the road by the Al Maktoum Bridge being raised could have a long wait - including Taxis.
New Job - No Car!Al Maktoum Bridge made driving between Dubai and Deira easy and had a significant impact on daily Dubai life - sometimes unexpected! I had not long arrived in Dubai. I worked for Cable and Wireless. They operated Dubai's international communications in those days. Their offices were on Deiraside near where Etisalat's building is today. My new Mazda had been ordered but yet to arrive so I used taxis to take me to and from Cable and Wireless in Deira and my home in "Coronation Street". Coronation Street?!! The nickname of a row of 18 terraced houses on Al Wasl Street facing the Pagoda. Cable and Wireless rented all 18 houses for their staff. We worked and played together!.
How to call a Taxi in 1970s DubaiOnly way to call a Taxi in 1970s was to do just that - go out on the street and hail a taxi. I had always been charged 6 Dirhams to go from office to home via Al Maktoum Bridge. On this occasion and the end of the trip, the Taxi Driver wanted to charge me 10 Dirhams. I refused! I argued it's always 6 Dirhams. He refused to accept my offered 6 Dirhams. I knew what to do - " Let's go to Police Station". Taxi Driver was not happy but agreed. He drove me to Dubaiside Police Station, which was somewhere near the Ambassador Hotel.
Taxi Drivers in the 1970s....Were mostly local men including my Taxi Driver. As soon as we entered the Police Station, the Taxi Driver began explaining his side of the story to the Police Officer in Arabic. I couldn't understand what they were saying as but I could understand the Taxi Driver's hand gestures. I interrupted! " Excuse me! Al Maktoum Bridge was down, not up. We were not delayed. I have always been charged 6 Dirhams and now this man tries to charge me 10 Dirhams". The Officer thought for a moment. "He says the bridge was up, pointing to the Taxi Driver. You say it was down. Why don't you split the difference and pay him 8 Dirhams?". I reluctantly agreed and handed over 8 Dirhams to the now smiling Taxi Driver.
"How are you getting home?"That was the Officer's next question. "By taxi" I answered. The Officer turned to the Taxi Driver - "Take this man to his home in Jumeirah. Do not charge him anything".
I spent 2 hours and 2 Dirhams learning something of the Arabic Culture that stayed with me for the rest of my working life and enabled me to form lasting relationships with the Dubai Police Force as well as a certain Dubai Taxi Driver!
Ray Webster - Dubai Resident 1970s