Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Friday, November 4, 2011

WHO HAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE GARAGE IN THE WORLD? The "Rainbow" Sheikh


1950 Dodge Power Wagon . .
 64 times bigger than original model
What rises above the dunes of the Arabian Desert outside of Abu Dubai, UAE and contains a vehicle listed in Guinness Book of Records, a 16-foot high Dodge pickup truck and 200+ cars and trucks of various vintages, hues, customizations, and sizes?

The answer: The “most expensive   garage in the world” and site of The Emirates National Car Museum.

Throughout history, and indeed today, a man is judged by the quality of his “steed.”  Arab sheikhs are known for their fondness of exotic and lavish cars and I think this is symbiotic with their ancestors’ attachment to their gloriously sure-footed graceful camels.




HH Sheikh Hamad 
Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan
On the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, you can catch a glimpse of Lamborghinis, Bentley, Rolls Royces and the like but no one can top H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan’s  emotional bond with his cars.

A member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hamad’s eclectic “stable” of motor vehicles includes passenger cars, 4X4s, jeeps, limousines, military vehicles, trucks and some that beg for description. 


Roger and his “Silver Surfer”
 about to take on the Yas Formula One Track in Abu Dhabi
Everyone who knows Roger is aware that he loves his cars too. So it was a no brainer when we were out cruising in the desert and came across the Emirates National Car Museum that we made an immediate stop. 

And boy what that a good decision!

 A far better one than I made, which was to take the Corvette into the desert in hopes of photographing it with some camels. We didn’t see a single camel the entire day!

Many of the vehicles found in this massive private collection have been customized to meet the Sheik’s liking while others have been acquired already modified by their previous owners. Some were gifts to the Sheikh and many are still used today as evidenced by the occasional empty parking space. 

In a Discovery Channel interview Sheikh Hamad was questioned if he ever sold his cars, he humbly and generously replied, “Of course I don’t sell cars. We are from royal family and people wait for us to give them cars, give a free car . . .  It is shame in our country for one of the royal family to sell cars.”

With a 30-year military career behind him, Sheikh Hamad is affectionately nicknamed “The Rainbow Sheikh” for his love of the colors of the rainbow. He has applied these multicolored hues to some of his vehicles.


While a few have the full breath of the rainbow hue, there is also a collection of Mercedes in the seven shades of the rainbow - one for each day. These were specially made in 1984 by Mercedes for the Sheikh’s wedding celebration.  


Now, we are not just talking about painting the exterior of the car, we are talking about EVERYTHING inside and out including hubcaps, dashboard, seats, bumpers, etc.

Dodge “power wagon” with a picture of
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan,
 founder of the UAE




Towering above the collection is a 16-foot tall working Dodge “power wagon” pickup truck (also pictured in the opening paragraph).  

Each component of the truck is exactly 64 times bigger than the original. This massive vehicle includes an apartment, a master suite and a tailgate the Sheikh claims is large enough on which to land a helicopter. Sheikh Hamad enjoys using it for his desert trips.
  








Proudly displayed on the tarmac outside the museum’s entrance is the world’s largest caravan – actually us American’s would call it a motor home. Recorded in the 1993 Guinness Book of Records, this two-story true “ship of the desert” contains 8 bedrooms and baths, four garages and comes specially equipped for desert travel with 5,297 gallons of water storage.  Wonder what happened to the rainbow colors here?

Across from the Caravan is the “Globe” car.  



Roger points out, “For those of you who do not know where Dubai is - this is the spot!”

It takes a $700,000 truck (used for the oil fields) to pull this baby.









There is a shiny see-through disco car, bubble and mini cars, some racing cars, a helicopter and in a bow to the historic beginning of the motorized vehicle, a 1890 Benz 3-wheeler.




To make sure he covered all the bases there is a New York City Taxi and a California Highway Patrol car.

































Roger shares the Sheikh's love of 1950 Ford pickup trucks


Katie's favorite!








The most expensive car is the Rolls Royce used by
Queen Elizabeth on her 1980 visit to the UAE






1970 Pontiac Firebird






















All welded steel hulled Daimler Ferret






















Fashionable Range Rover
































To get to the museum take a nice leisurely road trip to the desert. From Dubai take the Sheikh Zayed Road (E11) look for Mafrag. After passing the airport continue on same road towards Tarif. Take Exit 306 to turn onto E65 toward Hameem.  


Oh, and be careful of the roaming camels.  Not!

Postscipt . . .
Futasi Island . . .  . Among the Sheik Hamad’s other possessions is a small island 30 minutes off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Futasi Island is described as an easy getaway from the urban jostle of Abu Dhabi and Dubai especially in the winter months when the weather has cooled a bit.  
Accessible only by boat, it boasts of a few beachside chalets for overnight stays. Wildlife is abundant including sightings of flamingos on the shores, green sea turtles and dolphins in the ocean and gazelles roaming throughout the island.

To get around the island you can rent Arabian horses, camels or bike it. 


And Roger, you will be relieved to know there is only one ancient site on the island to explore – an Arabic fort made of mud! 


My bags are packed.
                

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the great photos and this post Katie. I always enjoy reading your blog since it takes me around the Emirates with you. Still haven't been to the museum but after this might take my boys.

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  2. Does he have a 1965 3-speed Ford Mustang convertible? That's my dream car and one day I'll have one, I promise! Thanks for showing me another fun place to go. Great photos. Shirley Ralston

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  3. Roger says yes, there is a 1965 Mustang . . . go see if they will let you take it for a ride!

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