Dubai Overtakes Cairo in Traffic Congestion

Posted on June 30, 2007

Professionals working in Dubai spend 2 hours per day commuting

Dubai is officially the most congested city in the Middle East, according to the latest survey by

The survey, which was conducted last month and released just before the launch of Dubai’s new road toll system (Salik), found that professionals working in Dubai spend on average 1 hour and 45 minutes each day in total commuting time to and from their place of work, the highest figure in the region.

The journey times are particularly long for those commuting to Dubai from neighbouring Sharjah, home to many expatriates working in Dubai. Although just 15 km away and connected to Dubai via two express highways, Sharjah residents working in Dubai reported spending on average 2 hours and 44 minutes for the daily return journey to and from work, much of it in slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic. Many reported high levels of stress and fatigue as a result.

According to, many employers in the emirate are becoming increasingly concerned at the impact of traffic-related stress and exhaustion on the productivity of their staff.

Cairo came second in the traffic rankings, with total daily commute time at 1 hour and 33 minutes on average.

Jeddah, by contrast, saw the lowest reported commute time, with employees spending on average just 46 minutes each day commuting.

Aware of the traffic problem, the Dubai government is taking drastic measures to reduce congestion by introducing an urban road toll system, the first of its kind in the Middle East. It is also building a modern urban rail system, the Dubai Metro, expected to come into service in 2009.

Parking Shortages

Based on’s survey findings, Dubai also tops the list as the city with the most acute shortage of parking space, with nearly half the respondents reporting difficulties in finding parking space near their place of work. Many reported having to leave home much earlier than necessary, to avoid the morning rush and to secure a parking space close to their place of work.

Dammam in Saudi Arabia was the easiest city for finding parking space, with only 21% reporting shortages.

Key Drivers

While Dubai’s traffic and parking problems have been the most acute, all major cities in the region have been experiencing growing congestion.

The recent oil-driven economic boom, combined with greater availability of auto financing and the lack of a modern public transport network, have led to greater demand for private transport and a sharp rise in car ownership across the region. At the same time, spiralling rents have forced many residents to seek cheaper accommodation in more distant locations, further adding to the traffic problem.

The GCC governments have been investing heavily in their road infrastructure, although this has not kept pace with the increase in the number of vehicles, leading to growing problems of congestion. Ironically, some of the investment in transport infrastructure has, in the short term, exacerbated the congestion problem due to ongoing construction work and the associated diversions and road blockages.

According to some traffic experts, Dubai is suffering from an originally flawed road system, with in-built bottlenecks on certain key routes such as the Dubai-Sharjah road. Over time, however, the new infrastructure including transit trains, the new bridges and complex of flyovers is expected to ease congestion to some extent.

A core underlying problem remains that, across much of the region, the development of support infrastructure is lagging behind more prestigious mega-projects such as airports, business parks, and high-rise towers – leading to continuous bottlenecks and disruptions in traffic.’s study was based on a survey of 5,000 professionals in fourteen major cities in the Middle East. The survey was conducted during May 2007 as part of an exercise to understand the key issues affecting employees at work.

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Comments (27)

Ali Halabi
Engineer | GTL | UAE

The only solution for congested traffic is that the companies 'working time' should start at different times in the morning; some start at 7:00am, others at 8:00am or 9:00am so that employees can leave houses and go to work at different times, rather than all at same time as is happening now!

Posted on 07 Jun 2007

Joseph Lymwell M. Reyes
Project Director/Planning Manager | FMQ Sons Company | Saudi Arabia

Effective, comfortable and safe mass transit system is the long term solution combined with good Urban Planning.

Immediate short-term solutions are:
1. Car pooling
2. Limiting cars allowed to be on the roads each week based on last digit of their number plates.
3. Bus Service for employees during working days
4. Bans on trailers, trucks and other heavy/long vehicles truck for a certain time every day.

Posted on 07 Jun 2007

Project Manager | PEO | Qatar

The main reason for this growing congestion is "Lack of Reliable Public Transportation System". Dubai is doing something about it but what about others? Although Dubai ideally should have delayed this "Toll" system until after the metro is operational.

Also, don't you think that the size of the place should be a factor too? For a place like Bahrain to have such congestion compared to a place like Riyadh shows that Riyadh has a much less acute congestion problem.

Posted on 07 Jun 2007

Mamdooh al Radadi
Managing Director | 7 carwash Arabia | Saudi Arabia

Stress and road rage are now an inherent part of commuting. It is a well-known fact that sales of SUVs are on the rise, not due to the weather, but because of the ‘big bully’ image they tend to reflect.

The new toll project in Dubai will only work once they provide easier, cheaper and faster methods of travel such as underground rail and a healthier bus system as in the west. One can only imagine what would happen in New York if everyone drove to work without the underground system and crazy cab drivers.

Personally I had a few factors that stopped me from relocating to Dubai: the cost of real estate, the traffic jams, and the boom in Saudi Arabia,

My final note on our city Jeddah being last on the list: It is great to know, and we should enjoy it while it lasts. Two years down the road and we will slowly, steadily climb the ranks, you can actually feel it!

Posted on 08 Jun 2007

Programmer | KFSC | Saudi Arabia

This is totally right. I've been to Riyadh, Cairo and Dubai. In Dubai, you should never ever go anywhere when it's the rush hour. The road will just NOT go. Although the city is well organized, but still the traffic is heavier than the road can handle.

Riyadh is crowded too, but I think everyone has at least two options for getting to their workplace. Also Riyadh is so wide which is an advantage, considering that we use highways almost everyday.

Posted on 08 Jun 2007

Hussain Almusawi
Adviser | M.C.I | Oman

Most gulf cities are on the coast line so there can be ferries between all Omani & UAE cities as well as other Gulf countries. Ferries can take a good amount of loads from the roads. If there is an Abra service between two parts of Dubai, why can’t there be the same service between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, or from Sharjah to Ras Al Kheimah? People will not only use them for their commute, they will find it an enjoyable experience. It will also make the coast line more busy and lively.

Posted on 08 Jun 2007

Mohammad Osman (Cabdi)
Administrator/ Researcher | Safari Company Limited | Saudi Arabia

It is really true that we are facing a major challenge as far as traffic and parking at our workplaces are concerned – and this is due to the increase in the number of employees using private cars and the lack of public transportation. To reserve your parking place, you should come at least 15 to 20 minutes before your actual start time. One of my colleagues even comes one hour before his actual duty time in order to avoid traffic.

Posted on 09 Jun 2007

Head of HSE Department | KOTC | Kuwait

The research findings have hit a very important point – that the development of different areas need to be in harmony with one another. For instance, construction in Kuwait has been booming over the last four years in both governmental and private sector projects. However, this fast progress in construction has not been synchronized with the Ministry of Electricity and Water plans. As a result, we are seeing shortages of electricity and power cuts. Similarly, traffic congestion has become increasingly pervasive in many roads and bottlenecks have clearly appeared everywhere in the country since the unplanned population increase of foreigners which is triggered by the manpower needs to execute the increased numbers of projects. To avoid this, all implications of one particular strategic move should be carefully scrutinized and all countermeasures to be considered.

Posted on 11 Jun 2007

Attiah H. Al-Zahrani
RCA Specialist | SABIC-GAS | Saudi Arabia

I wonder if the respondents from Saudi cities were taking the police checkpoints into consideration in reporting their commute times?

Posted on 11 Jun 2007


One way we can reduce the traffic problem: The government has to declare different weekend days at different locations instead of Friday being the day off for everyone. This way traffic can be reduced partially.

Posted on 12 Jun 2007

Naji El-Amin
Saudi Arabia

An important element is not considered in this study, and that is the size of the city. The land space in Riyadh is not comparable to that of Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha. For a more accurate measure of congestion, the study should take the size of each city into consideration.

Posted on 14 Jun 2007

Senior Auditor | Grant Thornton | Kuwait

Another reason for the problem is the thinking of the people in the GCC, who widely believe that everyone in the family has to have their own car to use in their daily works. This thinking has led to much higher number of cars and resulting in more traffic.

Posted on 14 Jun 2007

Senior Structural Inspector | RTA | UAE

I would like to praise Dubai’s road system. Unlike other cities in the UAE or elsewhere, Dubai is managing not just its own traffic, but also traffic coming from Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain etc. If this burden were imposed on any other city, they would not cope as well as Dubai at all.

Posted on 16 Jun 2007

Ahmed El Abd

I think Salik was a bit pre mature. The Dubai municipality should have first worked on developing the parallel routes to Sheikh Zayed Road. Salik shifted the traffic of six lanes of Zayed road to that parallel two lane road, for people trying to avoid the Barsha toll gate both ways.

I suggest that a brave courageous decision should be taken, to stop this dilemma until the new train system is totally operative and the parallel & alternative roads are fully prepared to carry the heavy flow. Four Dirhams, twice a day on average, multiplied by 20 days a month, represents a good percentage for many of the workers driving modest vehicles salaries.

Posted on 16 Jun 2007

Hasib Ehmed

I think you spend more time on Sharjah roads than in Dubai. This is because of poorly planned road infrastructure of Sharjah. I am a resident of Dubai and frequently driving between both emirates. Dubai infrastructure drains traffic quickly as compared to Sharjah but poor driving, wrong and irresponsible lane changing and road accidents cause problems for Dubai road drivers.

Posted on 16 Jun 2007

Mohammed S. Al Tamimi
HR Advisor | Agthia | UAE

I do agree with this survey. As a matter of fact, Abu Dhabi is second in place with regards to parking issues, I believe all buildings should have either
1. Allocation parking spaces for its occupants
2. Underground parking in each building
3. Control the amount of cars one family can have.
4. Underground public parking – This is available but most people refuse to pay so they remain empty for most of the times. If the prices were dropped and made reasonable, or included as part of the house rent then it would be more welcomed.

The ownership of vehicles is crazy in this country, obviously as mentioned by GulfTalent, with the ease on car financing, each person has two or three cars to his name. If it is a family of 5 and all of them have the same ratio as mentioned above, then its a catastrophe. The traffic in Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a headache too with more congestion in the center of the city where it becomes an issue.

Second issue is the accidents. When there is an accident in Abu Dhabi, both drivers involved in the accident remain in their places, causing further congestion. I know that there was a police report advising people to go to a nearby parking and let the police arrive and generate the report, (its usually obvious who is the one in error just by looking at the accident type) so maybe if the police advise the public via television, radio or newspaper as people are unaware of this rule.

Thanks GulfTalent for your continuous surveys that bring out the best of studies in the region. Keep them coming guys.

Posted on 17 Jun 2007

Mostafa El-Sayed
HR Manager | KOCACHE | UAE

This is not fair for Dubai. I am Egyptian living in Dubai. When we go back home we cannot drive cars. There are no proper signals and lanes in Cairo streets. No obligatory full coverage insurance. You could lose your car and life easily. You cannot cross any street; no signals for walkers. The roads between cities are very high risk.

Posted on 17 Jun 2007

Kinan Jarjous

As long as bottlenecks exist, there will be congestion. It doesn't matter if Business Bay bridge is 14 lanes when all the roads that lead to it and out of it are 2-3 lanes.

Posted on 18 Jun 2007

Imad Ghazal
Regional Manager | Adidas EM | UAE

Dubai is a wonderful city for business. However, due to traffic, personal life is paralyzed: shopping and out going habits are minimized. We prefer to stay home and relax to be ready for the next week!

Posted on 19 Jun 2007

Zahour Ahmad Qamar
Executive Manager | Inn-2000 | Pakistan

I recently spent the months of April and May in UAE. I suffered a lot and wasted lot of time in traffic jams. Taking the children from school at 12.30 pm and reaching home at the distance 3-4 km within Dubai took 3-4 hours, lost lunch time and reached my residence fully exhausted. If we went out for shopping in the evening and came back home around 8-9pm, we lost the chance of parking near our apartment in Al-Barsha and then making rounds and rounds availing the chance of someone leaving a space so we can park there. Whenever we reach near our residence I started praying "Allah humma barek lana be rahmatika" nearest parking. It’s really a growing anxiety of all inhabitants.

The government of UAE must sit together with internationally renowned roads and construction experts to find a solution to this issue. Even visitors not used to it are fed up and this will affect the tourism industry.

Posted on 20 Jun 2007

Lake View Real Estate | UAE

It is a good article. But every body would be interested in knowing where Dubai stands in international rankings in terms of traffic congestion? If I am not mistaken, it must be among top 5?

Posted on 20 Jun 2007

NT Thankan
Finance & Admin Manager | IMCO | Oman

It is true that tension is mounting on staff due to non-availability of parking nearest to employees’ place of work which will affect the productivity.

Some of the people really take this as an opportunity to do some exercise (parking vehicle away from work place and walk some time) especially those who are not moving from office.

Posted on 21 Jun 2007

Dr. Dietmar Hildebrand
CEO | Scientific-Services | Qatar

For many years a German company proposed a Zeppelin type called "Cargo Lifter" as the efficient and low cost way to transport goods in regions without any traffic infrastructure. I assume they did not consider offering this technology as a way to overcome congested infrastructure. The technology to build Zeppelins is still around in Germany, so if the Emirates would just ask the German ambassador to provide the appropriate contacts at least experiments with "Cargo Lifters" could be conducted.

The 3rd dimension is underutilized in traffic. I have invented a "personal Zeppelin" which could be used to commute from roof to roof with no danger (because on collision they do not fall down unlike other personal flight devices). Perhaps it takes a courageous decision of a gulf country to bring the next generation of transportation into existence.

Posted on 21 Jun 2007

Zyda Moosa
Gulf Agency Company | Qatar

I personally feel that the majority of professionals based in Doha will never have a parking shortage as most parking bays are only allocated to senior management. So if you are in lower management, tough luck! No one really cares about your two-mile trek from your parking spot to your office... and don’t forget your water bottles!

Posted on 21 Jun 2007

General Manager | OCIPED | Oman

In my opinion, the following could help minimize this problem:

- Encourage companies, establishments and government bodies (private & public sectors) to introduce “working from home option” which has worked well in many western countries as a result of IT boom
- Have (on time) public transportation services including railways, taxis and buses

Posted on 21 Jun 2007

Rudi C. Joustra
General Manager | Elcome International | UAE

I agree with all your findings and conclusions. But I miss in your article and other articles in the UAE another major flaw of today’s transport infrastructure; the lack of a cargo rail system, I believe discussed as long back as the 1970's. The present situation on many highways, particularly the Emirates Road, consisting of mile-long queues of slow or non-moving trucks is extremely dangerous and disastrous to traffic flow. This will not be solved by any of the measures Dubai government is currently planning or implementing. There are only 4 options to solve this to my knowledge; in order of preference:

1. A cargo rail system (used all over the world)
2. A sea feeder line system (partially already present I believe)
3. New and dedicated truck roads (inefficient in its transport capacity) or
4. An in-country cargo air freight system (expensive)

Posted on 22 Jun 2007

Omar Al-Qadasi
Senior Sales Executive | Gulf Air – Riyadh | Saudi Arabia

My suggestion is that the governments of above cities should take an action by issuing a serious rule on old vehicles – for example any vehicle made before 1985 should not run in the highways or in the heavy traffic congestion areas. I am sure this will reduce a lot of traffic congestions and giving more parking places.

Posted on 08 Jun 2008

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