Urban Legends

I have heard two stories over and over while living here – neither of which I am actually sure are true or not.

Before even moving here, I came for a week for a visit. Just to make sure. During my visit, I came to Al Ain for the day to see the university that I would be working at. The Women’s Campus Coordinator was extremely generous with his time, and he showed me around the campus as well as around Al Ain. He helped me get my housing situated and took me to Al Ain English Speaking School, where his children attended, so I could register Kassandra if I wanted. He was fabulous. His helpfulness and friendly attitude made the move here a lot less scary. He was truly a Canadian in every good stereotypical way possible. So, when he told me the first of the two stories, I was inclined  to believe him.

As I looked around for a recycle bin (come on! I am from Portland, where it is blasphemy not to recycle), he told me that there aren’t any recycling bins because all garbage gets sorted for recycling after being collected. When I exclaimed that that would take some serious manpower, he just nodded his head towards all the laborers milling about on the street. He assured me that there is no shortage of manpower in this country.  I had no reason not to believe him. I have heard this story a handful of times over the past few years. It wasn’t until recently that I started to wonder if it was merely an urban legend.

There have been numerous articles in the paper talking about recycle bins for household use in Dubai. Articles discussing things like the confusion over what goes in the green bin versus the black bin. Also articles commenting on how people aren’t recycling because they have doubts that anything is even recycled at all. They fear that all rubbish is combined at the end and sent off to the landfills.

Hmmm…. thinks makes me wonder if there really are minions (umm uhh oops I mean laborers) really recycling anything. Now I feel guilty.  Even though I have always tried to reuse the same plastic water bottle for at least a week, think of all the plastic bottles I have used since living here while clinging to the dream they were being recycled. Lately I have switched to a reusable washable water bottle. I still feel guilty. I feel even worse because when I visited home during the summer, my housemate, in the true spirit of a Portlander, gave me a stern lecture for throwing away a soda can in the garbage instead of the recycle bin. Gasp maybe the bad habits of the UAE have started to rub off on me. Please forgive me Earth.

The second story I have heard repeatedly is about alcohol. So, the story is that there are some people who will wait outside liquor stores waiting for expats to leave with their purchase. Then, they intentionally get in an accident with the person who has just left the liquor store. Then things go down a little like this….

I will call Saaed (the traffic police) to report the accident. And oh… wait… is that alcohol in your car? It is? Hmm… well I am sure the police are not going to like that alcohol was involved in the accident. But, you have a liquor license, right?   You don’t? Oh no. This is going to be a big problem for you. But, don’t worry, my friend. How about you just give me {sum of money} and we can just go our own ways. I will be kind and not call Saaed because I don’t want to see you get arrested or deported.

Or so the story goes. I think this is probably a story that spread after happening once. But there are holes in the logic. For one, how do the people that hit the car know the expat doesn’t have a liquor license? Are they in cahoots with the liquor store workers? Even that doesn’t make sense because if the expat didn’t have a license, and the liquor store actually asked to see it, I am assuming the expat wouldn’t have been sold the liquor. Additionally, I have never once been asked to show my liquor license when making a purchase, so the liquor store would have no idea if I have one or not.

Okay, so going off the assumption that the person making the scam is just guessing the expat doesn’t have a liquor license (and perhaps this is a safe bet since I would venture to guess more than half the people wouldn’t have a license), how much money could the scammer demand before the expat would call their bluff? Is it enough to fix any car damage and still have enough money left over to make the scam worthwhile?

They are also taking a risk that the expat doesn’t call them on their bluff and just call Saaed themselves. Saaed would determine that the accident was the fault of the scammer. Would the expat get in trouble for having the alcohol? I don’t know. Maybe. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for home consumption without a license. What the punishment would be, if any, for this is a little unclear. Obviously if the expat had already been consuming alcohol, it would be a whole different situation.

Another question I had when hearing this story was why is it just expats getting scammed? Why not Emiratis? Since an Emirati can’t get a liquor license, it would be a safer bet for the scammer. But, maybe the logic is that an Emirati would be less likely to just pay the money without question?

Hmmm…. In any case, hearing this story was one of the reasons why I decided to get a liquor license – just to be on the safe side. Maybe it was an urban legend started by the liquor licensing board. That would be hilarious!

So, back to my original thought. I have no idea if these stories are based on fact of any kind and yet I know that I have repeated these stories to others as a precautionary tale (especially the second one).  And even after over three years, I still wonder about their validity.   ….. I just realized how boring life can be in Al Ain if these are the things I still wonder about. 🙂

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5 Responses to Urban Legends

  1. Abu Awad says:

    Please don’t say that al ain is boring, I’m moving there from LA soon inshallah.

    Thanks for the new post been waiting awhile 😀🇯🇴

  2. Satya says:

    Tori, liqour related extortion is a reality. A friend’s friend did pay aed 7k in sharjah few years ago.

    While another friend scared them away by calling the cops.

    Legally, better get a license and make merry.

    • Tori says:

      Satya… was the friend’s friend followed into Sharjah? Since alcohol isn’t legal there, how did that work?

      • Satya says:

        Apparently these con men observe the people who buy from the liquor stores in the neighboring emirates such as Ajman, or Um Al Quwain. They follow them into Sharjah and create this minor car collision and trap the target. Sharjah being a ZERO liquor emirate, it is easy to convince and extort!!

  3. Cherie says:

    My husband and I live in Dubai. He works in Al Ain and lived there before I joined him in the UAE. We’ve also wondered about the alcohol “bumper” stories. He has an Abu Dhabi alcohol license and has never been asked to present it in Abu Dhabi (Al Ain) or RAK, where we drive from Dubai to buy alcohol at Barracudas. However, the Spinney’s alcohol store near our apartment in DSO did ask and would not sell him alcohol with only an Abu Dhabi alcohol license. We’ve always heard the “bumpers” wait for people to leave Barracudas and drive through Sharjah, which is dry, before making their move. We, luckily, have never had any problems.

    By the way, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I found it while searching for information on Al Ain before I moved to join my husband. I can relate to every single thing you write about life here, haha. Definitely interesting.

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