Abu Dhabi: Andy Docherty works for a construction company in Abu Dhabi, but lives in Dubai.
He has been doing the daily 300km ride to work and home for six years. “I wake up at 6am and hit the roads by 6.45am. The high cost of living in Abu Dhabi coupled with a lack of schools has left me with no choice.
“My family is well settled in Dubai and I don’t want to upset their routine,” says Docherty.
Docherty is not alone.
Many UAE residents do the daily 300km round trip between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (about 150km each way) for work and study.
Docherty says he’s become used to the grind. “I am pretty used to it by now. But definitely there is a lot of planning to do when your work is 150km away from home. Luckily my wife is independent and drives her own car. That relieves me of a lot of pressure.”
Egyptian expat Ehab Farid, 43, has been travelling 300km almost daily for the past eight years.
He lives in Dubai, but works in Abu Dhabi. And he’s not about to change that routine.
“My social circle is based in Dubai. Besides, rents in Abu Dhabi are higher and it doesn’t have that many schooling options for my children,” he says.
A country logistics manager with Schlumberger, Farid’s typical day starts at 7am when he sets off from his four-bedroom villa in The Lakes. Clocking a 10-hour schedule daily, he returns home by 5.30pm.
“It gets so tiring that it takes me around half an hour to find my bearing,” he says.
Paresh Shah, who lives in The Gardens, has roped in two friends to share the burden of a long journey to work in Mussafah.
“All of us have cars so we take turns driving to work. Travelling alone daily can be risky. You could fall asleep. When you have company, you are likely to talk and keep alert. When one of us gets tired, the other driver takes the wheel,” says Shah, who works for an engineering company in Mussafah.
He says living in Mussafah is not an option. “There is no life there. I can live in Abu Dhabi, but it has very few schools.”
Farid says the new roads have eased traffic considerably, but the highway is still busy compared to 2008.
“In those days I would set my car on cruise control and release it only before the Abu Dhabi exit. That is not possible now.”
Farid has a word of advice for commuters: top up the petrol tank as most gas stations on the expressway take a long time to fill up. “Since Abu Dhabi petrol stations accept credit cards, it takes almost 45 minutes to fill up at some places.”
Shah maintains a speed of 120-130km/h. “Driving is now more disciplined. After some horrific accidents in recent times, most motorists keep within speed limits,” he says.
Filipino expat Arnold Noceja, 34, works in Abu Dhabi’s Hamdan Street as a coordinator for a mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractor. The father of two lives with his family in Al Khail Gate in Dubai. “My day starts at 5.40am. My wife keeps my breakfast ready by then and I leave the house at 6.10am. My work starts at 8am.”
Noceja returns home everyday at 8.30pm – a good 14 hours later. “My wife Angie works in Dubai and I wanted to stay close to her workplace. My older child too is happily settled in a school in Dubai and I don’t want to upset my family’s routine.”
So how does he cope with the daily 300 km ride? “I am starting to get a back pain as I have been doing this for a year now. It is very tiring for me.”
Students find it tough
Students living in Abu Dhabi and studying in colleges in Dubai are also part of the daily grind between the emirates.
Aiken Geovic Fonseca, 20, a second year student at Middlesex University in Knowledge Village, has opted for a private bus that picks up college students in Abu Dhabi and drops them off at colleges in Knowledge Village and Academic City. For just Dh600 a month Fonseca gets a safe ride to Dubai and back. The charge for a day is around Dh50. If a student wants to take the bus for three days it is Dh300. For four days or more the charge is Dh600.
On days he misses the private bus, he takes the public bus from the main bus station in Al Murour in Abu Dhabi. The bus drops him off at the Ibn Battuta Metro station from where he either takes the Dubai Metro or a taxi to his college in Knowledge Village.
“This takes longer than the private bus. Sometimes I hitch a ride with a friend.”
His friend Carol Rodrigues, a 22-year-old second year psychology student at Middlesex University in Knowledge Village, however, drives her Lexus 460 to the Knowledge Village. She says most times she takes a friend along. “Firstly the ride is long. If you have company, your mind is occupied in a conversation. I just feel safer driving with someone around.”
“Everyday I am on the road for three hours. It drains me out. But my parents have an established business in Abu Dhabi and hence we live here. Sometimes there is a huge time gap between classes and it is then I wish I could just dash home and come back.”
Gopakumar Bhargavan, who lives in Dubai’s Al Ghusais, could not have it any better. Promoted nine months ago as chief marketing officer at UAE Exchange, he has to travel daily to his company headquarters in Abu Dhabi. But he’s not complaining — his company has given him a chauffer-driven Mercedes E300. “I leave at 7.30am and return home by 9pm. During my three-hour journey, I catch up on phone calls and pending office work.”
Bhargavan has chosen to live in Dubai where his children are well settled in college and school. “The last ten years I have been living in Dubai and my family is very comfortable here. I don’t want to live in Abu Dhabi for now.”