Monday, February 7, 2011

Sheikhin' All Over

So, I went down to me local corner shop to get a pint of milk this evening (cos we realised a bit late that the four pints of milk we bought at the Deira City Centre supermarket yesterday was in fact four pints of strange yoghurty stuff, damn that was a nasty cup of coffee) and who should I bump into but me old mate Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and absolute ruler of Dubai.  

Well, that's not quite what happened but the gist of it is true.  Well, the bit about the nasty coffee is.

Your typical car number plate in Dubai usually features a letter followed by five numbers.  However, fantasically rich people, who are usually Emirati royalty, have small numbers ie Government officials have double or triple fingers, close relatives of the Sheikh usually have single figures. 

And what number plate should I see when I stepped out of the Dubai Mall this evening?  None other than numero uno itself attached to a pristine chrome and white Rolls Royce.  Not sure what it was doing there, but behind it was parked a pristine black Rolls Royce with the the 2 number plate.  Perhaps me old mate Sheikh Mo fancied a go on the Dubai Mall Ice Rink or a quick gander round the Aquarium, or wanted to pick up a bit of bling for wife number two.  Or, possibly wanted to see if he could stay watching all the way through 127 hours at the cinema (unlike me).  Not sure who number plate 2 belongs to.  Perhaps the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mo's son - Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed. Bin is Arabic for "son of", by the way, so presumably Osama Bin Laden's dad was called Laden.

It's interesting because a bit of Googling suggests that number 1 plate was sold three years ago to a rich businessman.  While the ever reliable (!) Wikipaedia suggests that it is in fact still registered to the Dubai big boss.

Anyhoo.  I snapped a picture of said Rolls Royce with my phone.  Unfortunately, in the terminology of League of Gentlemen, I couldn't find a magic rubber worm (cable) to connect the talking tin to the magic typewriter to make the picture jump between the two so I can't show it to you.  But anyway, after taking the pic, I sat down at the nearest cafe with a seat in prime gawping spot to see if I could spot the Sheikh struggling out of the mall weighed down under bags of designer gear to wear when he's being a boy about town and taking a break from the hard grind of day to day Sheikhing.  I ordered a coffee and a lemon tart (lemon tart = vital sustenance to aid spotting of Emirati royalty) and eventually saw the carsmoved by two slight men who were definitely not Emirati royalty because they had no beards.  They were probably just drivers.

It's hard to know as a Dubai newbie whether they really were the cars of Dubai's numbers one and two.  The cars were sitting quite innocently outside the mall and all manner of people were rocking up to them getting their pictures taken practically lying across the bonnet.  Obnoxious cars are hardly rare in this city so they don't usually cause much of a stir.  Even the locals seemed a bit interested in them, which makes me think it was indeed them. 

However, the complete lack of security suggests otherwise.  Can't imagine people would be allowed to get photographed draped over David Cameron's car due to all kinds of anti-terror gubbins, but then, it's unwise to judge anything here by UK standards as certain ex-pats have learnt to their costs.   

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