This is turning into a series. How many men does it take to erect a steel umbrella?
Every morning from about 7.30am, as rush hour kicks in, Sharjah's roundabouts play host to solitary Anjads, members of the Emirate's elite traffic police force whose name translates as 'The rescuers'. These excellent gentlemen in their distinctive grey uniform daily help the traffic to flow East and South through the Emirate as people flock either to the schools area or to the arterial routes to Dubai - the Ittihad Road, Beirut Street or the far-flung Emirates and Dubai Bypass roads.
The Anjad accomplish this by standing on the roundabouts and blocking incidental traffic to let the most congested streams flow, invariably encouraging drivers to get a move on by making a series of hand gestures and even occasionally urging them to speedier movement by use of a whistle. The hand gestures, through the wearying process of repetition, occasionally become strange, a sort of floppy echo of the proud beckoning that starts the shift.
Rather sweetly, Sharjah's roundabouts are now being decorated with white-painted welded umbrellas, which appear intended to provide shelter for the rush hour Rescuers. It's a lovely thought, but it did rather leave me wondering quite where Anjads are going to stand now, because at 7.30am, each umbrella casts its shadow some three or four metres away in the middle of the road. By the time the shade actually becomes useful, the traffic has calmed down and the Anjads are back in the police stations writing up traffic fines and pulling the wings off beetles or whatever it is traffic policemen do when they're not waving and whistling at traffic.
Incidentally, Sharjah's roundabouts are all named 'squares'. It was the last straw for a friend of ours, the deeply lovely and eccentric Gill Hollis, who left after 20 years here muttering foul imprecations about squareabouts...