Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Petrolhead Paradise

The UAE's  fixation with the automobile is something that has come up from time to time on this blog and there are various explanations that I have come up with for quite why the car is so important.

Perhaps it is a combination of a deep-seated psychological need for status symbols, weather which means getting around any other way except in the air conditioned comfort of your car is pretty miserable for three to four months of the year and subsidised fuel prices which, for example, mean filling up Kevin the Toyota costs about 12quid whereas I suspect it would be closer to 50 in the UK.

There is fixation, however, and then there is fanatical obsession, and that is certainly what afflicts HH Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, whose private collection makes up the Emirates National Auto Museum.

It is safe to say that this is a man of big gestures and ambition. Known as "the Rainbow Sheikh" (this is in reference to nothing at all, he just likes them) he was the Sheikh who, you may remember, carved his name into the desert so big it was visible from space. I believe his name is no longer there. I can't find a link to support that now, but you get the picture.

I'm not someone who is particularly keen on cars, but I was riveted by this collection. The quantity under one roof is mind boggling enough, and it goes from the sublime:

To the ridiculous:

To the slightly more ridiculous. No, I have no idea for what possible reason you would need to do this to a 4X4 either:

And on, to, I don't know, as him indoors suggested, a car specifically designed to transport the members of Abba between desert concerts on their world tour:

One of the very nice things about the museum is the presentation which is done with a sense of humour. The paths between cars are painted to look like little roads, and you are greeted by this from the road as you arrive:

You can't really see the scale here, but trust me, it's a giant Land Rover.

Then there is what I've come to regard as the UAE's endearing obsession with breaking world records, in this case, the world's largest caravan:

Although, it hasn't moved for a while if the tyres are anything to go by:

I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. But really, these just scratch the surface of what the place is like. It is more than worth the trip. To get there, details are on the website which is linked earlier in this blog, but basically, from Dubai, go to Abu Dhabi, go past, head towards Liwa and keep going. You'll see the signposts from the road and the giant Land Rover means you can't miss it. If you do go, take plenty of water and make sure you have breakdown insurance because it's quite remote. The ticket office takes cash only, but if you forget to take any, the worker's camp down the road has a cash machine.

This pic doesn't show it but yes, there is the same model in every colour of the rainbow.

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