I'm often asked about safety in Qatar, and I always say that it is a safe place. But in the back of my mind there is a little nagging thought which says: "Except for the roads."
One of the most worrying aspects of driving in Qatar is road rage.
One time, when I was coming off a roundabout I noticed a Landcruiser veering towards me. I sounded the horn long and hard. The landcruiser ducked behind me for a moment, then came alongside me, opened the window and threw something hard and heavy at me which struck my car.
That's seems to be a fairly unusual occurence - I have only heard of it a couple of times.
However, there is a more sinister form of road rage here which is far more common. I have heard friends tell stories of this, I've heard Arabs talk about this, I've had it done to me and I've seen it done to other people.
What generally happens is this: a driver loses his temper, often because you don't move out of the way within miliseconds of him driving inches away from your bumper.
When you do move out of the way, he accelerates, changes lane so that he is in front of you, and slams on his brakes - or, should he be driving a manual car, changes down through the gears so that you don't see his brake lights.
Of course, if you do not have your wits about you (after hearing the story from my friend, I was lucky enough to anticipate the move both times it happened to me) the resulting accident would be regarded as your fault, as you are hitting the back of his car.
Not Always Anger
According to one person I met, this is not always done in anger.
An Arab girl I met through work told me that her brother's hobby was doing this to women drivers.
Of course, these things don't happen to you every day.
However, it is something to be aware of when you are driving.
People stressed by the explosion of traffic in a formerly quiet city can snap easily.
When it happens, it is best not to respond to anger with anger.
If you are not Arab, remember that you are not in your own country, you are not in your own culture and chances are you don't speak the language, so forget your pride and get yourself out of the situation as quickly and as calmly as possible.
More? Check out Qatar Visitor's 90 second guide to driving in Qatar (Podcast)
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