How to enjoy a day off

Living in Doha is absolutely great…unless you try to get something done.

At this ‘ambitious’ point, it’s always a bit of a headache; even if it’s something you do every year…like renew your car registration.

The car registration is essentially the Qatari equivalent of the UK’s MOT, a check that your car is roadworthy.

The trouble in Qatar is that the rules change almost every year, and you never quite know what new obstacle is going to be thrown into the mix. Usually there will be something, and failing that, you’ll just have forgotten what you did last year!

There used to be only one vehicle inspection point, and that was in the Industrial Area. That’s a place that’s also called Hell.

It’s a enormous grid of streets that are all being dug up and it’s completely full of pit holes. It’s also full of crazy lorry drivers who, as far as I can make out, are all trying to kill you

If you mention the Industrial Area when I’m around, you can actually see my blood pressure rise…

So, obviously you don’t have to tell me twice if there’s now another place I can go instead of Hell. I went off to the WOQOD on E Ring Road.

I had this great idea that instead of going at 7am, when it opened, I would go when the early rush has eased off at 10am. Actually I think I really convinced myself this was a good idea, so that I didn’t have to get up too early (it’s bloomin’ cold in Doha at the moment – it got down to 8C in the early hours of 23 January), but it seemed vaguely logical.

So, at 10, I got to the vehicle inspection area. What a mistake that was:

Still, I’d figured I’d be in for a long wait and I’d brought a book with me. I bedded down and started reading.

Before long, one of the workers at the inspection centre came up to me and said a lot of things with a very strong accent. I have no idea what any of them were.

After a large number of ‘pardons’, I gathered that he wanted me to drive out of the queue and down to the front.  I had no idea why, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain!

Down at the front, he indicated I should park and pay (it’s 75 riyals), and then he pushed me back in the queue. The only thing I can think of is that I’m female! Sometimes being a girl in this country is great!

For the vehicle inspection, all you needed was your old vehicle registration card (that plastic card), but when they tell you to go to Madinat Khalifa for the rest of the process, don’t do this unless you have your new insurance with you. Otherwise you’ll be wasting your time…like I did.

So I drove back home again, and called my insurance company. I pulled up outside their building and out came a man with an envelope, and in return I gave him a pile of cash. This might sound random to people in other countries, but in Doha that’s fairly normal!

In the envelope was my renewed insurance, as well as a piece of paper that had a sticky label on it saying ‘For Traffic’.

So, off I went again, back to the Traffic Police at Madinat Khalifa. This time with the right documents:

  • Vehicle Inspection Certificate (this is valid a month)
  • Letter from Insurance company
  • Old vehicle registration card.

Once in the right office (door 5, it’s signed Vehicle Registration or something like that) I again queue-jumped because I’m the fairer sex! Then hey-presto, for just 100 riyals, I had my renewed registration card.

Now, here’s the bit that’s changed since last year… You now need to get new number plates, as their design has changed.

To do this, you have to go to a different building in the traffic police complex, but only when they send you a text message telling you that your number plate has been made.

So…now I’m waiting…


About Steff Gaulter

Al Jazeera English's Senior Weather Presenter
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