Goodbye summer, welcome back traffic

Ramadan is over, holidaymakers have returned and the children are back at school. All of which has led to huge tailbacks.

DUBAI - SEPTEMBER 19,2010 - Trafffic congestion along Al Ettihad road in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National )
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ABU DHABI // Michelle Lamont was late for work yesterday. She did not arrive at her job at the American Community School until about 9am, because it took her an hour to find a taxi to take her to work. Ms Lamont was far from alone in her misfortune. Scores of parents, commuters, taxi and bus drivers across the country spent much of yesterday morning stuck in traffic jams.

She may have had to wait so long because taxis were purposefully staying away. Suleman Khan said his fellow taxi drivers had warned him of the jams so he steered clear of the city centre. The Abu Dhabi police Twitter feed reported numerous accidents and delays until around midday. One commuter between Dubai and Abu Dhabi said the Maqta Bridge exit had been closed completely, forcing cars onto a smaller road and roundabout. Traffic was backed up to the Raha Beach area.

Caught in that traffic was Ahmed Shaheen. His commute from Abu Dhabi to Dubai took half an hour longer than usual. "I've been going back and forth between Dubai and Abu Dhabi for a couple of months, and I've never seen that much traffic," he said. "Even before Ramadan, it was kind of congested, but not to that extent. "There were a lot of people driving on the shoulder." Mr Shaheen became stuck in traffic twice. First at the Maqta Bridge exit, and again near 15th Street on Airport Road.

Husam Khan said he was stuck in traffic for 90 minutes on the Dubai-Sharjah highway, near Safeer Mall. Residents said it was not unusual for traffic to intensify after the end of Ramadan and Eid. A group of Sharjah commuters said they arrived at work at 9.30am despite leaving two hours earlier. They reported bad congestion around Abu Shagara. "As usual it was stuck in a couple of places," said Mitchell D'Souza, who works in the service industry. "I normally take the Sharjah College roads and exit to Al Qusais, but I had to do a detour and go past Sahara Centre.

"It often takes me 40 minutes, but today it took over an hour. I plan to leave my house half an hour earlier starting tomorrow." In the capital, it took Rupa Gurung's bus an hour to get from the crossroads between Electra and Najda streets to her job at Starbucks in Al Wahda Mall. Irfan Khan, who also works at the mall, had bus problems as well. "It was so busy that the bus driver didn't even want to stop in front of the mall to drop us off. He drove through the next signal before stopping," he said. "Today was the worst traffic I have seen all year."

As a bus driver who shuttles labourers between Musaffah to Mafraq, Ghustan Khan is used to the post-Ramadan rush. "Every year, there seems to be more traffic," he said. For him the problem is the booming population and the fact that all the schools seem to open at the same time. "It gets worse day by day." Pamela Abdulla, a mother of two school-aged children, was resigned to the jams as a sign of the changing seasons. She said it was "truly the end of Ramadan, truly the end of Eid, truly the return to the real world."