If you offered to swap your brand new top-of-the-range luxury sports car for Azizah Abdul Aziz's 12-year-old Land Rover Discovery, you might be a little surprised at her reaction. "I love my car, absolutely love it," says the 31-year-old events management executive. "And I'd choose it over a newer, smaller, faster model any day of the week." Azizah, who lives in Sharjah with her husband and two large dogs, is originally from Singapore. She first arrived in the UAE in 2003 to work as cabin crew for Etihad Airways, but did not hold a driver's licence until 2006. Passing her test, she admits, has been a life-changing experience.
"Learning to drive made a real difference to my life. Suddenly I was so much more independent. But for the first few months I didn't have my own car, so ended up driving around in my husband's Toyota Prado." The experience of using a four-wheel drive helped Azizah decide that she also wanted to own a larger vehicle when she moved from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah in 2007. "I got very comfy in the Prado. I loved the interior, the powerful AC, the cruise control - and the fact that I was high up in the traffic. Those advantages made me realise I had to get a similar car."
Two years ago, she found her perfect match pinned to the private ads noticeboard in Spinneys. "As soon as I saw the advert, I knew I wanted the car," she says of the 1998 green Land Rover Discovery with full leather interior. "It was a bargain at Dh14,000, even though there were quite a few kilometres on the clock. I asked my husband to take it out for a drive to see if it sounded OK, because I wasn't sure what to look for in terms of engine problems."
Since then, Azizah has modified her much-loved vehicle with technical overhauls, tinted windows and a brand new stereo system. "I love driving anyway, and the novelty of having that freedom has never worn off. I like the fact that my car is big, gruff and practical, as well as being really comfortable. At the same time though, it's not so luxurious that I can't have fun with it. For example, at weekends, we love piling the dogs in the back and going camping or to the beach."
Indeed, she's so attached to her Land Rover that it even has a name, although she won't reveal it. "My car is definitely a 'she'," she laughs. "But that's all I'm saying. Obviously, because it's my first car, it is special to me. I get quite sentimental and protective about it." Azizah admits that anything smaller than her current car simply wouldn't do it for her. "I have driven smaller hire cars while the Land Rover is being serviced, but I don't enjoy it half as much."
The Corolla she has hired of late is not her favourite thing on wheels. "For one thing, if you're going through heavy traffic in a Corolla, you just don't get much respect from other drivers," she complains. "The sheer height in the Land Rover is excellent. It's not only about being bigger, it's about visibility too. Usually, I can foresee traffic delays because I'm higher up than other drivers." And though her car has seen better days, she is keen to point out that, with the current financial situation, buying a new one just isn't practical. "For a start, the process to get a car loan is very long and drawn out, and a new car loses so much of its value once you take it on the road. So it's not really worth it."
No, for now Azizah is sticking to her trusty Discovery to ride out the recession. "The Land Rover is also perfect for me because I work from home a lot and don't do too much long-distance driving. If I did, I would probably opt for a newer car - perhaps a Range Rover Sport in red," she says. "But for now, it definitely makes more sense to stick to an older model - as long as you have a good mechanic!" firstname.lastname@example.org