I set two “personal best” records recently: fastest journey from Abu Dhabi to Dubai; and slowest journey along Sheikh Zayed Road, though the latter should really be regarded as a personal “worst”.
Leaving the capital after a meeting that had gone on much longer than expected, I stepped into the back seat of a car at 5.45pm and zoomed off along Al Muroor. I had a meeting in Jumeirah Emirates Tower at 6.30pm, and realised straight away I would not make that.
I called my friend — a man who likes to linger, like me, over a cigar while talking shop — that I’d be late for the appointment in The Agency in Emirates Towers, one of the best cigar joints in Dubai. Would he wait for me until 7.30pm? Yes, of course, he said, though I sensed a bit of frustration.
I hate being late for appointments, especially pleasurable ones such as this promised.
Well, hats off to the driver, who stuck like glue to the fast lane without ever breaking the speed limit, as far as I noticed.
By 6.40pm we were passing the Dubai Marina area, and I texted my friend to tell him I’d be at the cigar bar by 7pm. Excellent, he replied … would I prefer Cohiba or Montecristo? Montecristo I replied, already savouring the flavour.
I spoke too soon, of course. As soon as we hit Mall of the Emirates, it began: a solid wall of red tail lights disappearing off into the distance along SZR, as far as the eye could see.
The French have a neat phrase for a traffic jam, “embouteillage”, which means literally “bottle stopper”. It’s a graphic expression: you are literally corked into a bottle, with no hope of escaping.
That’s how I felt on the SZR that night — like a cork stuck tight in the neck of a bottle.
As an SZR veteran, I know that sometimes, around the Al Manara turning, the traffic tended to thin out. No such luck this time.
I texted my friend it might be 7.15pm. Wishful thinking.
The next spot where the bottle was sometimes uncorked on SZR was at the Al Hadiqa/Meydan turn-off, but again the jam just ground on and on. We were crawling, stopping, accelerating, braking.
Of course, there was a reason, but it wasn’t an accident or a road closure. In a word, it was Cityscape. As I approached the Trade Centre area (I was to turn off SZR just before it) you could see the whole area was one big parking lot of vehicles trying to leave the region’s biggest property exhibition.
I don’t know about the property at Cityscape, but nothing was moving under, around or over the Trade Centre roundabout.
I was grateful when we turned off before, at the exit to DIFC and Emirates Towers. Anybody heading towards Sharjah was in for a long nightmare.
As I pulled up outside the hotel, I looked at my watch: 7.40pm. It had taken me nearly an hour to travel 17km.
I needn’t have worried. My friend had found a charming companion to while away the time with, and the Cohiba (I changed my mind when the box was presented) tasted even better for the postponement of the first draw. The conversation — mainly about in vitro fertilisation — was excellent and informative.
I savoured the cigar, and after a while left my friend to the delights of his dinner companion.
I got a Dubai taxi from outside the hotel, and did the same journey — in the opposite direction — in 12 minutes.
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter