x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

My Car: Riding high in a Chevy Silverado suits her just fine

The 2008 Chevrolet pick-up was the first vehicle Meriem Cheikh-Aissa bought, and the sight of the 24-year-old in her red truck still turns heads.

April 25, 2012 (Abu Dhabi) Meriem Cheikh-Aissa and her Chevrolet Silverado pickup. (Sammy Dallal / The National)
April 25, 2012 (Abu Dhabi) Meriem Cheikh-Aissa and her Chevrolet Silverado pickup. (Sammy Dallal / The National)

Algerian Meriem Cheikh-Aissa seems to turn heads wherever she goes, but never more so than when driving her beloved 2008 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up. However, aspiring suitors will be disappointed to discover that the unusual pair are both off the market, as the 24-year-old is to be married in December and is also very much in love with the first vehicle she has ever owned.

The French-schooled, freelance events organiser explains the reasons behind the motoring mismatch: "I like to be original and know there are very few women in Dubai who own a pick-up truck. I suppose it's basically a statement I'm making, as the truck represents my freedom to be able to go wherever in whatever style that I choose," she says.

And with extreme sports, including jet skiing and snowboarding among Cheikh-Aissa's passions, weekends usually involve driving around in her beloved red truck transporting her sports equipment to and from her favourite beach hot spots. At present, her other main pastime is preparing for her wedding in Germany and, more importantly, the honeymoon that follows. "Things keep on changing but, for now, the plan is that we get married at a simple wedding on December 17, then spend our savings on a long honeymoon instead of a big party with friends. We believe this experience is about us and not about pleasing our friends. I had been fretting with the planning - thinking what people might like to eat or drink or listen to - then came to the decision that this isn't what it should be about at all.

"It's ironic, as my fiancé, Thorsten, is the technical director of stereolize.com which specialises in 3D real-time video presentations, but also provides full event servicing, so between us we are more than capable of organising a wedding," she laughs. The similarities in their career paths are no coincidence, having met during the dismantling of an event on December 17, 2008.

Bought new in April 2008 at Al Ghandi showroom for Dh110,000, the beast, which she describes as "cute", has now racked up more than 75,000 kilometres. It is a no-frills machine, with the only extra being a Rip Curl sticker on the glove box. However, the trusty truck has so far cost Cheikh-Aissa very little in terms of maintenance, and her only gripe is that the suspension is "perhaps a little soft and wobbly at the back".

It seems the Chevy is here to stay, as Cheikh-Aissa regards it as part of the family, despite a recent test run of her father's Toyota Tundra V8, which convinced her a smoother ride could actually be had.

The individualist describes herself as "a little bit nice and somewhat crazy too", and Cheikh-Aissa has incorporated the Silverado in some of her zany stunts. "Let's just say it wouldn't be unusual to see me driving along at 70 kph with a tent up in the back," she laughs. As it transpires, she has a tent that fits perfectly into the truck's bed, so she can cause a scene hurtling down Sheikh Zayed Road in what must be the strangest caravan ever seen in the Emirates.