Monday, February 02, 2015


It’s about this time of year that Facebook is peppered with pictures of motorcycles parked in garages and prevented from going outside by snow and ice. Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. I fully sympathise, but spare a thought for a Goat who can’t ride his own bike when the weather is perfect, because it’s 400km away.

Yes, it’s motorcycle season in Arabia: that glorious period between October and April when dry weather is almost guaranteed, and daytime temperatures are in the twenties Celsius. So why am I not riding?

Because Qatar.

Having landed a job last September, only now in February am I about to obtain my iqama – Residence Permit – without which it’s impossible to have a cheque account, purchase liquor or pork, or own a motor vehicle. I’ve been driving a rented car because there’s no functional public transportation system in Doha. I do look forward to the Metro, but this currently consists of several large holes in the ground where roads used to be and temporary traffic barriers to redirect traffic around the holes. The Karwa taxi service is a semi-functional lottery, whereby it’s easy to get a taxi from a shopping mall, but you’ll wait until the heat-death of the universe before you can hail a taxi in the industrial area.

I was last on two wheels in October, since when I have removed the bike’s battery and the machine languishes in chains in Dubai. A sad situation indeed.

Once I have my Qatar residence, options become available, at least in theory.
  • Obtain a Saudi transit visa, fly back to Dubai, and ride the bike overland to Qatar. Previous attempts to do this sort of thing have ended because I wasn’t resident in both the UAE and Qatar. The fatuous rule about not being allowed to import a vehicle that’s more than five years old will not apply because it isn’t an import. The bike would still be registered in Dubai. In principle this must be possible; I see vehicles in Qatar that are registered in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and KSA. I don’t see why I can’t drive from Dubai to Doha in the same way as I can drive to Muscat (without a Sultanate of Oman residence), but this is ‘unbossible’ for the Saudi authorities to comprehend, it seems. Or else it’s my careless choice of passport.
  • Do exactly the same thing as described above, but do it with my Terios. Here is the sensible ‘head’ option, as it would save close to QAR4000 a month on car rental, I’d have a 4x4, and when time comes to demobilise and go back to Dubai I could fling all my stuff in the back of the car and drive it. The fundamental disadvantage of this option is that it doesn’t solve my PMS.
  • Buy a bike. Continue to rent a car, but be self-indulgent in the Department of Large Motorbike. Here is the ‘heart’ option that would cost a fortune. I’d lose my shirt when demobilising from Qatar and selling this putative bike, or I could export it to UAE which would entail expense and heartache (as it did last time, in 2012) and I’d end up with a surfeit of motorcycles.
The bike season will go phut in mid April. Hardy souls such as I usually continue to ride during the summer months, but pleasure rides tend to be nocturnal. In other words, there seems little point in going to the time, effort, and expense of getting a motorbike into or in Qatar for the extremely limited chance I’ll have to ride it. In practice, what seems most likely, and certainly most sensibly, is that I don’t get to ride a motorbike of any flavour except on occasional weekends visiting Beloved Wife in Dubai.

The option of selling my Kawasaki and looking into buying a bike once I know where I’m going to be long term doesn’t make economic sense given my current knowledge of where I’ll be after April. Or after August. Or at the end of 2015... I fundamentally don’t know how long I’m going to be in Qatar, and have even less of a clue as to where I’ll end up next. As the bike is over eight years old it’d almost certainly produce less than AED20k, and a new replacement is now the thick end of AED80k. All for a bike that to me is in perfect order and ready to ride. A used Kawasaki 1400GTR? In the UAE? I think I already own it.

What to do? I work six days a week most weeks except when I’m visiting Dubai, so there’s precious little time to get on a bike anyway. Last time I lived in Doha I used the traffic as an excuse to commute by motorcycle. This time I choose to live literally over the road from the office so the bike would get used only for social events and road trips across a country smaller than Connecticut. I guess that I can simply have motorcycle fantasies until my work in Qatar is done, try not to go insane, and hope that my next job won’t leave me in a semi-permanent state of ‘so near and yet so far.’


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