The law of filling up


Due to the lengthy drives you need to fill up a 60 litre tank on a regular basis. No problem, you might think, in a country that is one of the biggest oil suppliers in the world, producing 3 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia even produces over 10.6 million per day! The service at the petrol station is ideal and gasoline is cheap. But getting into a petrol station can be a stressful activity. This is where the law of the jungle prevails: the law of filling up.


At the petrol station an Asian attendant pumps gas in the tank and wipes a chamois over the windows. He endures the extreme weather conditions, while I can sit back in my car seat enjoying the cool breeze of the air-conditioning. When it comes to payment I only have to open the window just wide enough to let my hand go through. It’s a good $20 for filling up, not a pain for my wallet.

qatar service at petrol station

As soon as I hand him the money the scorching heat falls over me like a warm damp blanket. The suffocating fumes of gasoline and exhaust from running vehicles at the pump seep inside the car. ‘Please keep the change’, I nod at the poor sweaty man, then quickly closing the window to get back into the fresh air of the air-conditioning again.

Stressful activity

Acknowledging the working conditions for the employees, the  service at the petrol station is ideal. But entering the petrol station is a stressful activity. The entrance of a petrol station is often placed at the side of the main road, forcing thirsty cars to line up on the street. The raging traffic driving by at about 130km/h makes one shiver in his vehicle. To escape this drivers push their car into the narrow entry lane and line up in rows of three or more. They swarm like ants on an anthill squeezing themselves into the preferred row, the row for filling up, the mechanical service or the air pump. Some cars jump the line -almost literally- to reach their destination. Others push in against the traffic direction. Some of them keep pushing, even if there is no space left.  Until all traffic is blocked.
petrol station filling up

Law of the jungle

However, there are rules to follow, especially for pushing and jumping lines. At the petrol station the law of the jungle is key. A big Lexus wins over a Q7, unless the Q7 has black tinted windows and the Lexus doesn’t. Because the blacker the windows the more likely the driver is a local, a man or woman of this country, with a high status or a policeman. Therefore large cars with black tinted windows should always be given priority over large vehicles with lightly tinted windows.

But what if both cars are equal in size and have similar window colours? Then it’s best to look at the driver. Pakistanis generally ride as a driver for the local population, while Indians often drive for other Indians or Westerners. To assess this properly some experience is desirable. A collision with a Pakistani can have major consequences. Mind you, a Pakistani in a Landcruiser or other large 4WD. Drivers like myself or a Pakistani in a regular sedan can take some beating.