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Fahad al Abdullatif with his 2008 BMW 523 at Knowledge Village in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Fahad al Abdullatif with his 2008 BMW 523 at Knowledge Village in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

After a crash course, student is on the right path with a BMW 523

My Car Fahad al Abdullatif, a former speed junkie, paid for the habit both in crashes and repair bills and now takes it easy with his "beautiful and classy" BMW 523.

Fahad Al Abdullatif, a 26-year-old senior student at the American University of Sharjah, is the envy of many peers with his 2008 BMW 523, which his father bought him new and shipped directly to his UAE halls of residence.

Originally from Khobar, Saudi Arabia, Al Abdullatif moved to Sharjah six years ago to further his education and develop a career. He loves his BMW, partly because it's the first car that he hasn't crashed.

Al Abdullatif was given his first car, a 2003 Lumina SS, by his parents for passing his high-school exams when he was 18, but he didn't have it long, as his father soon discovered buying a teenager such a fast car wasn't a great idea.

"Because of my speeding and irresponsible driving, I've had what feels like a million accidents. Do you know anyone who's had three incidents on the same day? Yes, that is me," Al Abdullatif laughs.

Only five months later, after repeatedly crashing the car, his father decided to sell the Lumina, to teach his son a lesson after having to fork out more than Dh30,000 on repairs. Al Abdullatif was left without a car for more than a year.

Having studied at the American University of Sharjah for the past five years, Al Abdullatif has recently started working for an events and PR firm in Dubai and now has a two-hour round trip from Sharjah. So, of course, the 5 Series plays a prominent part in his everyday life.

The "beautiful and classy" car, as he describes it, has only about half the power of his previous charge, with only 175hp, and that's his biggest criticism. "My car may not be very powerful, but I love its stability on the road and the German manufacturers have certainly done a great job on the interior," he says. "It may not be sports speed, but it's a comfortable drive, particularly on highways and longer journeys."

Before Al Abdullatif received his BMW, his interest had been tweaked about German cars, which he says are particularly popular in Saudi. "All my cousins used to emphasise the reliability of BMWs and that's one of the main reasons I bought it. When I saw the car in the showroom, I made the decision to not leave before striking a deal with the salesman, who knew my father, so he was open to bargaining," he explains.

"Now, every time I drive my car, I take a look at it before getting in and feel glad I chose it. It's true it started having some problems after the warranty expired, but I always fix these issues quickly to prevent bigger problems arising."

Few students own such a luxurious car and Al Abdullatif thinks this could be a reason why some people on campus are jealous. "Many people give me 'the look' when I'm in my car. At the beginning, I thought they'd just taken a dislike to me personally, but then I realised they actually hate the fact I own a nice BMW and they see it as being unfair - even the lecturers," he grins.

Al Abdullatif also says he has had some of the best times of his life in his car. "This car has been with me throughout my college years, which is meant to be the best period of my life. It has taken me to places where I've had unforgettable moments, such as road trips around the UAE and Oman with my friends," he reminisces.

Even when Al Abdullatif thinks of selling his car, he says he would only do so to buy another, more powerful, BMW. "Yes, I do think of selling it in a year or two, but sometimes I feel so attached to it. If I'm buying a new car, it would have to be a BMW M5, as this model combines the luxury of a German car with the power of a plane," he laughs.

Perhaps the new, career-minded and mature Al Abdullatif should stick with the 523, avoid crashes and maintain his father's peace of mind for a while longer.

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