Katmandu living

the van de Wiel/Schou Hansen family blog

With less than one week to go we are getting ready to take of for our yearly summer holiday to Europe. We will arrive in Amsterdam next Tuesday and are therefore also in full preparation mode. As a part of the preparation this year I have had to get a Yemeni driving license. Until now I have been able to use my Mexican license (to be fair, I have not used it much, as Lieke has done most of the driving whenever we have been to Europe, as I am still suffering under having learned to drive in a country where automatic transmission is the norm) but as my Mexican international driving license was running out, I had to get a Yemeni International driving license. This meant that I would first had to get a Yemeni normal driving license. It was with some reluctance that I started this whole venture. Just after buying our car we had to get the plates changed from normal Yemeni plates to diplomatic plates – to do this I had to spent two days at the Interior Ministry’s Police headquarter going to what seemed to be random offices getting signatures and rubber stamps. At the end of the whole thing I had a form with what must have been at least 15 stamps, signatures and comments (the Yemeni bureaucracy loves to put comments on paper), so the whole thought of having to return to this place didn’t appeal to me. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how efficient the Yemeni driving license system has become. That is – the system is still distinctly Yemeni as I started the whole process by paying bacsish to avoid having to take a driving test as this had to be done with a car with stick shift – 1500 Riyal later I had passed the test! However, the place where the licenses were issued seemed to belong in another country. Besides the fact that sign for Highway on the poster of traffic signs was turned sideways (probably stemming from the fact that they do not have any highways in Yemen and therefore never use the sign) it looked more like an office in Europe (not Northern Europe though, as they did not have any design furniture). To get a license you had to go though a number of tests, including a test of your sight, and everything were automatic. In the end you were issued a small credit card size driving license. So all in all I was deeply impressed with the efficiency of the whole thing. However, it also makes me wonder – if they have such an efficient system why is it that I see 10 and 11 year old boys driving around in the father’s big Toyota Land Cruisers every Friday. Like most things in this county the law is good and so is the execution of the system, but the consequent implementation on the ground is non-existent. Getting the International license was absolutely no problem. For some strange reason the International licenses in Yemen is issued by one of the big travel agents! I guess they won the concession for this. Anyway, you should look out from next Tuesday onwards, as this whole exercise has give me the right to drive freely around Europe.


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