Monday, 2 June 2008


It’s a remarkable study in human geography: throughout the Emirates there are to be seen various stages in the development of communities around speed bumps. I do find that interesting: as an inattentive and impossibly inky-fingered schoolkid, I vaguely remember being told about how communities will establish around natural land formations such as the confluence of rivers or trade routes. And, in fact, there is evidence of communities built around trade routes in the Emirates from 3,000 years ago: specifically in the megalithic burial site to be found in Bitnah, which is a village on the wadi system from Masafi to Fujeirah which has, incidentally, been scandalously neglected by the government of Fujeirah. That wadi was the lower, and probably would have been the easiest and therefore principal, crossing of the Emirates from the coast, across the Hajar mountains and over the desert plains, the higher being Wadi Bih from Dibba to RAK.

Today’s trade routes are black-top and almost every set of speed bumps on a busy road will see chaps selling baby-doll pink candy-floss, fruit and vegetables or black mountain honey from rickety carts or packing-case stalls to the cars as they slow down. More established markets, such as those on the RAK road through Umm Al Qawain, put up scaffolding frames and tack corrugated iron roofs on to make more permanent shops. And then you have examples that have turned into semi-settlements, such as the Masafi Friday Market, a speed-bump community on the Dhaid/Masafi road. This now sports some concrete and block buildings, including a mosque and has turned into quite a large on-road retail park.

More established communities are to be found on the Abu Dhabi highway: again these started as speed-bump communities in the days when the highway was a two-lane affair with no camel fencing and some famously wicked speed-bumps that would regularly be adorned with lorries on their side that had come in too fast and lurched off the road. Today, these are small villages that have outlasted the speed-bumps that prompted their foundation. There’s another one of these on the Dhaid highway from Sharjah: a roadside truck-halt kind of community.

I do find it amusing that the UAE has two types of developing communities built on selling people candy-floss...

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