Sunday, August 1, 2010

License Plate Tag

When my siblings and I were young, my parents devised an interesting way to keep us occupied on long car trips. Each child got a checklist with the names of the fifty US states, as well as DC and a few Canadian provinces. The first child to see and check off license plates from all of the listed locations won - as did my parents, who experienced a more bearable trip.

Yesterday, while walking around the neighborhood, I saw an Omani license plate on a late-model black Mercedes sedan. While I hadn't officially been keeping track, that sighting completed my checklist for all license plates in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman). I'm sure I'm way ahead of my siblings on this scorecard.

I was warned by the woman who owns my apartment that summer in Amman was "Saudi Season" - traffic becomes unbearable as GCC nationals pour into Jordan to escape the oppressive Gulf summers. She was indeed correct. It seems there are just as many foreign cars on the road as Jordanian ones, and what's worse, they are usually large SUV's fueled by cheap (and local) Gulf
petroleum. I've had several taxi drivers complain that the GCC cars are driven by maniacs, who "think they own the road" and "dont understand basic traffic laws." I could probably say the same about Massachusetts drivers, but I certainly agree with these guys. Traffic has multiplied recently and trips have become slower and longer, just as a terrible heat wave has made these waits in cars more uncomfortable. Saudis may be escaping the Gulf heat by coming to Amman, but they are dooming me to experience far more of the Jordanian heat than I would like!

Beyond the GCC, I'm doing quite well with license plates too - I've checked off every Arab country east of Egypt, with the exception of Yemen. I've also gotten three different provinces in Iraq and four different emirates in the UAE. So far, I haven't seen any Gulf license plates on an old or beat-up car, though... I may see an Israeli license plate in Amman before I see a poor-looking car from the GCC!

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