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A City In Search Of Records: A Jeddah Businessman And Personality

10 August 2015

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

RECENTLY, a Jeddah businessman and personality suggested that the city be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records and crowned as the international ‘city of festivals'. He was alluding to the number of festivals held throughout the year.

That did not sit well with my friend Ribhi, who is more concerned with the trials of everyday driving than the number of festivals held every year. Like many residents, he believed that global recognition was the least of the city's priorities. He gave me his input on what was on his mind regarding road conditions. He was hoping that if I brought it to light, it could wake up some consciousness in the concerned municipality officials. As he says it: "Since 2004, I have replaced on an average of two tires every six months on my cars. A wheel alignment is a must every 12 months and ball joint replacement on an average of 24 months.

"If your ill fortune forces you to drive in the city of Jeddah, you will get a real test of your patience and a real test for your vehicle. It is obvious that the roads are constructed and repaired by engineers who do not drive and have no idea what it is like to drive on Jeddah roads.

"To begin with, there seems to be no standards by which roads are built to. Each street is different; different consistency of asphalt mix, different markings, different marking aids, and the construction companies make it an art of designing manholes that ensure your teeth and vehicle wheels are put to the test. Road repairs are done also with no standards and using engineers and laborers who never drove anything more than a bicycle.

"If one is to pay closer attention, road markings and marking aids differ from one street to another. Some use paint, some use studs, some have no markings at all. Paint used varies in thickness from one road to another. Studs also vary from one road to another. Some roads have surface mounted studs, which are installed using adhesives.

"These will come out after a couple of weeks and they will gift some poor driver an unwanted cracked windshield. Some streets have studs that look like crystal balls while others have studs with lights. Some have studs designed to rip a tear in any tires that goes over them."

Ribhi contends that ‘when building roads or repairing them, holes are left in and in various locations forcing drivers to swerve left and right in order to avoid hitting them. If you are unlucky, then be ready to replace your tires, wheels and shock absorbers well before their designated time.

"There seems to be no planning or coordination whatsoever between the municipalities and the Traffic Department and the various utility companies for maintaining standards of markings, safety standards, running electrical and telephone cables, and sewage and water lines.

"It is almost guaranteed that if a street is paved, then within a week or so, someone else is already digging to run either water pipes, drain pipes, or electrical/telephone cables. What is worse is that the repair of the road afterwards is so poorly done that the street surface sags and sinks within days creating a nice dip in the road guaranteed to break an axle or a wheel rim.

"I am positive that no inspector from any municipality goes out to check the quality of construction and repairs made by contractors because most likely those municipality inspectors do not drive themselves on our streets and most probably do not own cars to drive on the streets with. Because if they did, they would surely know that something is seriously wrong with our roads and that explains why no one does any inspections."

Ribhi here is echoing the frustrations of hundreds of thousands of motorists who face such conditions daily as they traverse the roads in our city. Many of these aberrations have been vented in the press previously to no avail. The shoddy state of affairs of our roads continues without signs of much improvement.

And to think we want to enter our city in the Guinness Book of World Records? With such road conditions, not on your life, baby!

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 


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