Sharjah is so unlike anywhere I've ever lived that it's even fascinating when you get lost. One moment you're driving on a well paved road bordered by gleaming skyscrapers crowned with helicopter landing pads. A single wrong turn later, you're thrust into a dense network of packed-dirt alleyways lined with scrappy storefronts and teeming with laborers from places as far-flung as Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
I was reminded of this the other night when I set out to have a look at a jogging stroller listed on dubizzle. It was early evening and the roads were dark and congested. I was heading for an area of town I'd never visited before. I was also in a hurry. But really, what could go wrong?
Well, just two wrong turns off the main road and suddenly I found myself in laborer-ville. The contrast to where I'd just been (and the Sharjah I'm used to) was astounding. All at once I was surrounded by workers cruising by on their bikes on the entirely unlit, unpaved streets. Heavy equipment, random pieces of shop machinery, and various tools and piles of junk were everywhere. I was the only a) white, and b) female person in sight and even if I were a man, I would have had to be wearing a shalwar kameez to really fit in. I have never been to Pakistan but I have to imagine that at least parts of it look something like that place.
At one point I called Jeremy and told him something like, "I am driving off-road in the dirt in a workers' village on the wrong side of the road and I am lost. Just so you know. kthxbai." I eventually found an area clear enough of industrial project debris to execute a U-turn and got the heck out of there. Basically I drove down the "main" "road" until I could see a stoplight in the distance and made a beeline for it, all while muttering (in reference to the bikers darting around me) "please don't hit anyone please don't hit anyone please don't hit anyone." I have never been so happy to see a stoplight. It meant a return to civilization and the realms of Nigel the GPS's expertise.
I decided to abort my jogging stroller mission and head home. On the way, I crossed under a new, fast road that I was mildly familiar with and even though Nigel wasn't aware of it, I decided to take it. Well, first I had to continue going under it and then make a U-turn to catch it on a second pass. I was feeling so smug about knowing my way around (ha). Really smart, you know? S-M-R-T, as it turns out, because on the second go I completely missed the turn off. D'oh!! I had to drive a few more kilometers down the road, do another U-turn, and, on my third try, successfully get on the right road.
All this for a stroller. The next morning (yesterday) I drove out to the seller's apartment. It took all of 13 minutes. Magdalena and I went right up to the apartment, took a look at the stroller, bought it, and came back down. We were home within the hour with our prize.
It was definitely worth the detour to bizarreville, that's for sure.