Archive for September, 2014

Driving home


I think it might take longer than 72 hours these days.

trip home.tiff

What do cows say?


Not much sympathy


I don’t really have much sympathy for these people’s complaints.

Whether you like it or not, having visible tattoos may well affect your employment prospects – that should have been pretty clear to everyone when they decided to get them in the first place. You can complain about whether that’s fair or not, but it’s a fact.

I am not a fan of tattoos and was pretty shocked at how many people had them when I was home over the summer. Seeing so many women with tattoos particularly surprised me, considering that, in general, women tend to change their look or style more often than men. Having a tattoo seems, well, permanent.

Back in Saudi


For this first time since 2009 or 2008, I think.

So little seems to have changed.

A few newer cars and a few newer buildings. Riyadh airport immigration queue was just over two hours. Hotel ok but not really functioning properly, with no one seeming to care.

Dusty roads and half finished buildings.

Feet on the dashboards.


Uber impressed


I finally got around to signing up for Uber last week, using them several times in Jo’burg and today in Dubai.

I’m totally blown away by the whole system – it’s such a perfect use of today’s mobile technology. Available in so many cities, solves the issue of having cash with you, of safety with driver and passenger ratings, navigation with the GPS telling the driver where you are and where to go, how long you have to wait, etc, etc. Just incredible.

The drivers I spoke to all worked for local companies that were contracting with Uber. They all seemed very happy, especially with the way Uber use the technology to pay bonuses – most customers picked up in one day, most trips, etc. Everything’s being used to incentivise everyone, customer, passenger, fleet owner, etc, to buy and sell as much as they can.

Just stunning.

The Dubai driver I spoke to today says he pays 8,000dhs a month to hire his Lexus, with an iPad and Uber. He pays for petrol and keeps everything else, plus commissions based on various factors. He typically makes between 17,000 to 20,000 a month, which is pretty amazing for a driver.

Previously he used to be a normal taxi driver for 36 months, during which time he collected 36,000dhs in fines. His comments echoed what a lot of other taxi drivers have told me, namely that when they are fined it can often be difficult to understand exactly why. This means that bad drivers don’t learn and good drivers become disheartened.

The cars I all took were at the top end of the saloon range. Prices are a bit higher than using a normal taxi (in Dubai at least and I’m sure in Jo’burg too) but it’s well worth it, especially when it can be expensed. The convenience of checking your phone fifteen minutes before you meeting ends and picking car makes a world of difference.

With local companies scrambling to make their own apps, Uber’s still a step ahead with their international coverage. The market’s still wide open though – a real revolution coming to the world of taxis!

The ultimate test – I’ll be in Lagos in November, where Uber are apparently operating on Victoria Island…