Middle East wedded to the wheel

26 February 2013

Cars still rule the Middle East’s roads. But change can – and must – come, writes Robin Mills

 

The car is king in the Middle East, but driving its roads is often a dangerous, congested and polluting affair. Last month, 24 workers were killed on the road from Abu Dhabi to the inland city of Al Ain when a truck collided with their bus, burying them under a load of sand and gravel. Megalopolises from Tehran to Sharjah and Cairo have become notorious for gridlock. The cohorts of Land Cruisers, Hummer H2s and Porsche Cayennes that race through the sprawling suburbs of Dubai, Doha and Riyadh raise concerns about soaring domestic oil consumption, while fuel-subsidy schemes stress government finances in Jordan and Egypt.

The Middle East’s transport systems sprouted in a different era. Consumers are still sheltered from reality, while high fuel prices are forcing the rest of the world to adapt. But there are some glimmers of change. If seized on, these could make the region’s...



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