Friday, February 13, 2009

Speaking Omani Driver

George and I turned onto the main highway (which is one way each way) after a morning of rock climbing. We are quite accustomed to the interesting driving practices which are commonplace in Oman. Passing when there is less than a foot left between you and the oncoming car. This is not an exaggeration. In fact, sometimes the traffic has to go three cars wide. Tailgating within inches while flashing your brights. That happens when they think you should move. Needless to say, the driving can be quite intimidating. Today, however, held some new lessons for me.

As we were driving, two cars in a row flashed their brights. Given the odd, yet consistent, behavior described above, I wasn't too surprised. But for what this time? We couldn't possibly have been annoying them, we weren't even in front of them! Then it happened again. We thought, and dismissed it as just more daily bizarreness. And then bam! In front of us, the same color as the sand, is a camel standing right in the middle of our lane. George slammed on the brakes, and avoided nearly hitting an animal three times the size of a North American deer. Of course, we realized, that's what the lights were about. As we continued on, more lights flashed, and we learned the language. George flashed his at the next driver coming our way, and the man flashed back and jovially waved as he passed. Again it happened, and again, as we negotiated passed another clueless herd on the road, each time the driver lifting his hand in appreciation of our warning. George smiled and exclaimed, proud of his new communication abilities, "I speak Omani driver!"

And it's true, there is a language of the road here in Oman. More often than not it sends a message of superiority and is motivated by pride and self-righteousness. It was encouraging to learn today that this language is sometimes used for good, and speaking it can lead to helping others, and not just getting ahead.

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