Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Kuwait Left Turn

I actually first came across the first left turn in Saudi Arabia, and would watch in horrified fascination at the stoplights. Saudi Arabian driving was the worst I have seen, ever, anywhere in the world, but the driving has some inner logic if you are there long enough to get used to it. (I had thought I would hate not driving, but in Saudi Arabia, I was happy not to drive.)

In Saudi Arabia, there was no respect for lanes at all. At a junction there might be four legal lanes; one marked for people turning left, one for people turning right, and two for going straight ahead, but when the light turned red, there would be six or seven or eight cars lined up, all squeezed together, almost door to door. If there is a space, a car will fill it.

And maybe four or five of those cars would turn left, but not necessarily the four cars closest to the left. One might be in the far right turn lane, but going left. Yes, there were accidents, but not so often as you would think.

In Kuwait, they have refined the right-turn-lane-left-turn down to an art. I’ve gotten so used to it I hardly notice it any more, and that is why I am blogging about it now, so I will have it down before it falls of the screen.

Here is how it works. The guy in the far right lane realizes he needs to turn left. First move – he turns the wheels left and inches forward. Second step – this is optional – he gets the attention of the guy to his left and indicates he needs to go left. This is done with a combination of desperate looking eyes and a hand motion. Third step – he continues inching forward. Last step – just as the light is about to change/is changing he shoots out into the intersection, across four lanes of traffic, making his left turn.

There’s no honking. People are used to it.

That the lane second to the left also often goes left, although it is marked to go straight ahead, is a given.

It happens so often, we take it for granted.

The second variation on a left turn is that in Kuwait there are long stretches between stoplights or roundabouts, but there are conveniently marked areas where you can make a u-turn. There are left turn lanes that make it easy. But often, there are people who don’t want to get in line, or maybe realize too late that this is where they need to turn. No problem. They just get right up next to you and start edging their way in. It can be really scary when that someone is a big cement truck, or a bus full of workers.

Sometimes there can be two or three cars making that left turn at the same time. You would think it would be a disaster, and somehow, it all seems to work.

All this is . . . . very creative, refusing to be limited to what the law says is permissible. The problem becomes switching tracks when you go back to a country where the laws are less flexible.

April 20, 2007 - Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Travel


  1. i ve been to saudi once, i hate that place and they really dont know shit about driving

    Comment by Qaiss | April 20, 2007 | Reply

  2. I just drive like a maniac .. the best way to protect your car from the crazy drivers is to be the crazy driver.

    Comment by KtheKuwaiti | April 20, 2007 | Reply

  3. Welcome, Qaiss, and K,

    It LOOKS crazy, but as I said, I’ve never seen anyone hurt. for one thing, I think people are aware of it and watch out for the left turners, it is so common. There are some surprising politenesses on the Kuwait roads.

    Qaiss, believe it or not, I liked Saudi Arabia.

    K – Be safe. You have people who love you.

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 20, 2007 | Reply

  4. Oh, the left-hand turn from the right-hand lane is VERY popular in Beirut. What amuses me most is how upset those turners get when those in the left-hand lane won’t let them turn FIRST.

    There is one left-hand turn off Fouad al-Chehab down towards Gemmayze and the Dora highway that often has 3 or 4 lanes of left-hand turners – leaving those who want to go straight (as the road intends) with only one small lane to do so.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | April 21, 2007 | Reply

  5. K.. Your a stupid (edited by Intlxpatr). That has to be one of the dumbest comments ever posted on the internet.

    I just hope you kill yourself and not anyone else with your idioicy!

    Where the hell do you get off putting your life and petty need to act an idiot ahed of the life that is around you.
    If I had my way, I’d personally stomp the stupid out of you.

    You (edited by Intlxpatr)ing Dumb$ss Chav!

    Comment by WTF | April 21, 2007 | Reply

  6. Uh . . .guys. . . take the fight outside, will ya?

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 21, 2007 | Reply

  7. What’s a Chav?

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 21, 2007 | Reply

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