Today, in addition to applying for my liquor license, I also applied for my UAE driving license. Couldn’t do so before as was waiting for my residency visa which was issued yesterday.
Woke up, went online to see if I could find out some instructions on how to apply for the license, found some info about not having to retake a driving test due to being in possession of US license, however nothing on office times nor locations. Finally found some info, printed it out, headed out the door, got in elevator, read the print-out, closed Thursdays!?
Grrr. Back up the elevator, online again to find a phone number to call. Busy signals all around, automated messages that just put you in a loop or hang up on you. Finally got through to someone who confirmed that the license bureau is indeed open. Back out the door, into a cab, cabbie didn’t know where the place was (what do you mean you don’t know where the place is?? Where did you get YOUR license??? Oh, in Abu Dhabi, I see…), quick call to Scotch to sort directions out, cabbie still took me for a ride, finally got there 30 min and AED50 later ($15). Mind you, the place is only 5 minutes from my apartment.
By now it is 12pm. The instructions I printed out said it can take 4-5 hours to go through the whole process so I’m crossing my fingers that I can get it done by the 4pm closing time and that the ladies-only line is empty.
Am directed by lobby person to a small office with a lone Emirati (dishdasha and all) sitting at a desk in front of 2 copy machines. He is on his cell phone. When he finally finishes his call, he takes my passport with residence visa, 2 passport photos, and ….(pause)…he is now checking his text messages…now he is texting…okay now he is ready for me to hand him my NYC license. I hand him the license but before he has fully extended his arm to take it from me, he is on his phone texting again. He asks me for my mobile details to fill out on the form but before I can finish reciting my numbers he is on the phone again. When he gets off the phone, he continues with the application but I have to remind him that my mobile details are incomplete. Right, right, he says as he glances at his texts again. Perhaps I too should start texting someone, anyone.
Finally, after all documents were photocopied (Remember the copy machines behind him? He didn’t even have to get out of his chair!) and the AED40 payment of translation services were rendered (the driving application is in Arabic only), he tells me that the licensing office is closed.
Ooookay, so where I am? Timbuktu? He tells me that I must go to the other office, that it is open until 9pm. Where is it, I ask. Jumeirah Plaza, he replies. I don’t know where that is, I respond. You know Safa Park? he asks. I shake my head no and decide to make him work for the AED40 by asking him to draw me a map. Then I double-check with him the closing time and what directions to give to the cabbie.
Soooo I get in another cab, ask him to take me to this Jumeirah Plaza Center, pay him his AED45 fare, and as I exit I ask the cabbie if this is indeed the License Place. What, he exclaims, the license place is in blah blah blah. Oh, can I walk there? I inquire. No madam. Hmm, I say goodbye to the cabbie anyway and decide to check out this Plaza Center that I have been sent to. Inside, a security guard tells me that the licensing place is in Jumeirah Center Plaza, not here. Um, excuse me, I thought I was in Jumeirah Center Plaza. No madam, you are in Jumeirah Plaza Center. Jumeirah Center Plaza is next door. Sigh.
The eye exam for the license can be done at any optical so I enter the one pointed out by the security guard, go through a series of A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s, some colorblind stuff (are those 5s or 8s?), pay my AED25, head over to Jumeirah what-ever-Center-Plaza praying to god that the place exists and is open for business.
Open it was with one person in line in front of me but the Emirati government official is…SURPRISE…on his cell phone.
Well 15 minutes later and 110 Dirhams lighter, I exit the office with a sparkly new UAE driver’s license – Woohoo! And then I noticed it. My last name was spelled wrong.