The din of traffic, people and everyday life was drowned out last week as more than 20 large motorcycles rumbled into a small Abu Dhabi neighbourhood. But the Tanker Mai residents need not have been frightened or intimidated by the burly bikers rolling through their streets. They parked their bikes in front of a villa, forming a jumble of chrome and steel, and walked in to a celebration. They were there to launch the latest motorcycle club in the UAE: the Abu Dhabi Riders.
"Our vision is larger than other clubs," said Kanaan Al Buraiki, the Sergeant at Arms of the Riders. "We accept everyone; we don't discriminate about race, language or even the type of motorcycle. "It's a social club more than a motorcycle club." The Riders' goals are simple. They plan to support charities here and abroad with rides and activities. And paramount in achieving this goal is making membership in the club as enjoyable and safe as possible.
"The rules of the club are 90 per cent safety and 10 per cent about the relations between the club members and with other clubs," said Al Buraiki. The Abu Dhabi Riders, which count 32 members to date, are part of a large network of Riders clubs in the Middle East. There are 10 so far: Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia (which has three), Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Qatar. Morocco and Egypt are scheduled to have clubs in the near future.
Starting in October, after the hot season, the Abu Dhabi club plans to have a ride every weekend, with a longer ride at the end of each month for charity. The club also plans a ride to Jordan in November, a trip that would take around two days. Al Buraiki's home served as the club's first meeting point. New members lounged on couches and chairs, loudly chatting to each other and drinking coffee and tea, before joining in for a large, traditional Arabic feast around the dining table. The meal was ended with a large cake to celebrate their new club. The atmosphere was relaxed and amiable - exactly what the club intends for its members.
"I ride before with another club, but not anymore," said Hamdan Al Yafei, a mechanical supervisor with Adnoc and a Riders member. "But this club, when you want to join a club, you must know and trust the group. And the best are in this club. So that's why I signed up without knowing anything about it; I don't know the rules or anything. "You know when you go riding somewhere, you can trust them. They will make the ride safe."
Abdul Latif Sfaxi, a Tunisian CEO of a public company, has been riding for more than 20 years and owns two motorcycles. "I joined this club for the network, and it's a good family. "There is no issue with being with another club. This is larger than what others have; it has more commitment, more activities. So this is more fitting for me. It's more committed to a brotherhood, a friendship within the club.
"There are many nationalities here, though the majority are Emiratis. But they are very open-minded. And we are living in their country, so it's a good way to get to know them." Later in the night, after the meal and cake, most of the riders left in a long train of Harley-Davidsons and a few other bikes, roaring off on a ride around the capital. Al Buraiki, Sfaxi and a handful of others stayed behind to clean up and talk motorcycles.
Sfaxi told about two accidents he has suffered in his long motorcycle history; Al Buraiki recounted how his father, an avid biker himself, prodded his son to try motorcycling just four years ago. There were the inevitable stories of long trips and adventure, mishaps and future plans in the saddle. But above all, there was the sense that motorcycling and friendship are intertwined for these men. "We're riding all the time, all weather," said Sfaxi. "Kanaan and I used to ride all last summer by night. We ride all Ramadan, in the heat, all the time."