x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Built for dune bashing

This Dubai sales manager takes versatility over luxury with his Jeep Wrangler.

Dubai resident Christopher Saul with his Jeep Wrangler Sahara, which he and his wife enjoy driving off road at weekends.
Dubai resident Christopher Saul with his Jeep Wrangler Sahara, which he and his wife enjoy driving off road at weekends.

In a city where people love to have the newest and latest of everything from handbags to cars, Christopher Saul is something of an anomaly in Dubai, having been loyal to his 2001 Jeep Wrangler Sahara for seven years. "It has never seriously let me down," Saul says. "Whilst I've had it serviced regularly, it's not expensive to maintain." The 35-year-old British expat works as a desktop virtualisation sales manager for Oracle and really appreciates the Jeep when he and his wife are able to get away at weekends and take it off the tarmac.

He says the off-road abilities of the vehicle more than make up for any discomfort on long road drives. "There's really no need to spend a fortune on modifications - it comes out of the factory ready to race up the dunes," he says. "When I bought it, I was new to Dubai and didn't have much money. I needed something that would fit my budget but would be good off road - seven years on, I have no regrets." His off-road adventures can even be seen online. "I could probably regale you for hours about thrilling rides in the dunes, but a picture speaks a thousand words, so do a search for 'Sweihan bowl' on Google and you'll see me having immense amounts of fun," Saul says.

The love Saul has for his Wrangler is a far cry from his early driving days in south-west London. He describes his first car, a 1988 Peugeot 205 GT - "that's GT, not the GTi" - as "a complete disaster, uncomfortable and unreliable". "I swapped it after a couple of weeks for a 1990 Skoda Favorit in pea green with brown interior - not a fashionable car, but it served me well," he recalls. "Fortunately, the person I swapped with wrote the Peugeot off soon after, so they never found out they had acquired a lemon."

When he swapped the streets of London for the roads and dunes of the UAE eight years ago, Saul was instantly struck by the sometimes chaotic driving in the emirates. But he believes he has seen improvement in driving standards in his time here. "There is still a lot that could be done, though," he says. "I don't really understand why it isn't, as it makes economic sense to do so. "Dubai wants to be a modern city, and at the heart of that is a safe driving culture - they have to do something to stop the Third World standards that still prevail all too often."

"Proactive policing" is Saul's solution. "Everyone I know has had to pay hefty fines either for minor infractions or for things they had no idea they had done. And despite this, you still see crazy driving on a daily basis. "I would like to see the traffic police proactively policing the roads and using their discretion with less reliance on speed cameras and fine issuing." Aside from putting the world to right on the roads, Saul is also quick to share his "dream stable of cars" that he would one day like to own.

"I'd like a Series One Land Rover, a British classic, and a 2010 Range Rover; a stunning vehicle, and hopefully more reliable than the 2003 Range Rover I also own as Mrs Saul needs to drive in style and comfort," he says. He'd also like a Land Cruiser with the old, boxy body shape - for comfort and fun off road with friends - and an Audi R9 because "sometimes you need something to show off in, however impractical it may be."

But for now, Saul is sticking to his trusty 4x4; in fact, he would keep his Wrangler in his dream stable. He travels a lot for work and doesn't drive very much when he is in Dubai, apart from weekend off-roading. "My wife and I have had a great time driving the Wrangler around the deserts and wadis of the UAE - it's light and powerful and gets you where you want to go with the guarantee you'll be grinning from ear to ear."

glewis@thenational.ae