x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

My car: 2005 Nissan Altima

Squeals and gear problems have not stopped Emirati project manager Shaima al Sayed loving her Nissan.

Shaima al Sayed was introduced to the Nissan Altima by her brother:
Shaima al Sayed was introduced to the Nissan Altima by her brother: "It's a very big car, yet very sporty. I have had it so long that I know its dimensions blindly."

Shaima al Sayed may be a project manager by day, but when she's not hard at work, she enjoys going to football matches and driving her 2005 Nissan Altima.

The Ajman resident has owned the car for more than five years and she is keen to hold on to it for a while yet. She considered buying the 2010 Altima Coupe but she says that, for now, "I'm keeping my baby".

Al Sayed was going to buy a 4x4 but her brother steered her in the direction of the Altima, which was not quite as common on UAE roads back in 2005.

"I absolutely love it," she says. "It's a big car, yet very sporty. I have had it so long that I know its dimensions blindly.

"My option for a saloon car was it had to be economical, spacious and sporty. The first time I drove it, I fell in love with it instantly - my first owned car, and I have never regretted having it at all."

But the mighty Altima has not been without its issues: "The Altima from 2005 to 2007 actually has a gear problem," says al Sayed. "I had my share of it - it was the worst when my car would not shift out of the first gear and the maximum I could drive was 45kph, but that was quite some time back.

"The other problem it has is the squealing a/c belt; I have learnt to handle that with a few tricks."

She explains that although the mechanic told her the whining noise cannot be fixed, she just puts the car into neutral as she brakes, which seems to help "avoid all the screeching and wailing".

Al Sayed proudly declares that she is not a stereotypical female driver, which she describes as: "You know, very straight seat, too close to the steering [wheel], clutching to the steering wheel with two tight palms, rigid head movements, fixed sight to the front, 100kph or less in the first lane, and taking 10 minutes on average to change lanes."

When al Sayed got rid of the dark tint on her windows, she says other drivers were surprised to see it was a woman behind the wheel: "I have had many guys drop jaws when after some time, they find out it's a girl driving confidently and daringly, and not a man."

When she first got her car, she says there weren't too many on the road, but this didn't stop her from getting involved in an embarrassing incident: "I had gone out with friends, and left my car in the parking lot of some building, and when I came back, we opened the car door, and to my shock there was this couple inside deep in conversation," she recalls.

"I almost swore at them, then realised it was not my car, but just the exact make and colour, and my car was hidden out of sight by a bus.

"The guy got out and he wasn't mad, actually he was explaining that he and his girlfriend were doing nothing immoral and were just chatting and he was actually going to drop her home. He must have thought we were CID or something!"

Aside from getting mistaken for a member of the police force, al Sayed has also used her car to help out a good cause: She is one of the organisers of the annual Unity Drive, an all-woman drive through all seven Emirates for UAE National Day. The Altima has been a faithful companion on these drives for the past three years and it looks like this year, it will again be called into action on December 2. She is looking forward to this year's drive, which will be to raise awareness for breast cancer screening, diabetes and special needs children in the UAE.