|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
It's long been traditional for Friday's midday prayer time to be the cue for people to park where they fancied in the street, abandoned cars outside popular mosques often reducing traffic to a single lane or even blocking roads entirely. It's amazing how people would park three or even four cars abreast on the approaches to - and even around - roundabouts. Given Sharjah has a large number of mosques, many located on roundabouts, serving residential neighbourhoods, Friday traffic can get quite random. That the problem has not been more severe has been in part down to the fact that shops and other businesses close between 11.30 and 1.30, so you've got fewer people in the streets in general.
The practice is justified by the fact the person is praying and therefore beyond reproach and has been tolerated for as long as I've been wandering around the Gulf. In Saudi Arabia, you'll often find people pulling up at the side of the road to pray, gaily abandoning their cars while they do so. But Sharjah's Friday street parking, which can reach a quite breathtaking scale, has clearly gone too far for authorities and we were amazed to see police patrols outside mosques, with cops taking numberplates and the usual jams on roundabouts notably absent.
Gulf News reports that over 200 traffic tickets were issued on Friday (a Dhs500 fine and four black points, if you don't mind) and that police distributed traffic awareness leaflets.
The acid test, of course, will be how this is implemented over time. And while it means emergency services and traffic in general won't be impeded by the 'random street parking', I can't help but feel a little sad at the passing of one of the many little quirks that makes living here so, well, interesting...