x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

My Car: Canadian sees the perks in owning a Mercedes C230

Leigh Williamson appreciates the luxury of her Mercedes-Benz C230 for shuttling around Dubai and longer road trips to Musandam.

Leigh Williamson likes the solid feeling of safety she gets with her Mercedes-Benz C230; the CD player comes a close second. Pawan Singh / The National
Leigh Williamson likes the solid feeling of safety she gets with her Mercedes-Benz C230; the CD player comes a close second. Pawan Singh / The National

Sexy and fun is how Leigh Williamson, from Vancouver, Canada, describes her Mercedes-Benz C230, which she bought in 2007 soon after she arrived in Dubai. A sporty and energetic soul, Leigh can be seen buzzing around the city, either trying to sell property or heading from one launch to another when she's wearing her PR consultant hat.

"I split my team between real estate and promoting events - usually sporting ones, as I've worked on a number of high-profile clients here, including the Dubai World Championship and the recent visit of AC Milan football team," she says. And when not looking after golfing idols and Italian icons, you could spot Leigh in her German ride, cruising modern contemporary art and photography at UAE galleries or heading to and from yoga sessions.

Despite a burning ambition to one day own a Porsche Panamera, Leigh is clearly fond of the car she has driven right through the real estate crisis and back out the other side and, she says, things are good again for Dubai's potentially lucrative real estate industry.

"It's a good, solid car and after driving a tin-box Lancer prior to owning the Mercedes, I really appreciate the increased feeling of safety while driving. I bought it for Dh80,000 immediately after test driving it. Heeding the advice of my flatmates is one of the best decisions I've made. It's still in good condition, despite it not liking sand much, and it despises the nasty speed bumps all over Dubai," she says.

Leigh's car has been permanently anthropomorphised by her friend Roia, who gave her car the unlikely moniker of "Christopher" - for no particular reason. "We just decided to name the car and felt that it looked like a Christopher."

The Mercedes is worlds apart from the car Leigh used to drive in her homeland. "I drove a Jeep in Canada - it's a very outdoor lifestyle there and not such an emphasis on luxury and image, so the Jeep used to get me to where I needed to be, whether it was hiking in the Rockies, camping along Vancouver's powerful Fraser River or skiing at Whistler. It was more important that it got me there and back than travelling in style."

And Leigh has noticed a huge difference in the behaviour of drivers in the UAE compared with the west coast of Canada. "The main differences are the speed people drive at, the type of cars - posers instead of practical - and the fact that we stop at cross walks in Canada to let pedestrians pass. I guess Canadians are quite passive drivers, which is quite the opposite of the aggressive racing that goes on here. We also get lots of snow and rain in Vancouver and can manage driving in these conditions with no problems, so when it rains here and chaos commences, it's quite funny to watch. Plus, when we have thick fog in Canada, we go slowly and this bizarrely doesn't happen here," she adds.

Leigh confesses she prefers listening to CDs in the car and admits she may be the only person left who buys CDs for the daily commute and trips around the UAE. "I love long trips in the Mercedes listening to my favourite tunes. I often drive to Musandam and chill on a dhow, snorkel, swim and dolphin-spot. I drove all the way to Zighy Bay around four years ago with my mum for our relaxation and pampering weekend.

"It was the perfect trip, listening to great tunes and taking different routes there and back in order to see as much of the desert as possible. It was great to see the countryside and camels along the way. It can be really beautiful driving in this country, especially in a car as luxurious as mine."