x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

My Car: Small is beautiful for Emirati owner of classic Mini

Mechanical technician Khamis Al Mazrouei fell in love with the 1994 Mini Cooper when he saw it on the silver screen.

The Mini attracts a lot of attention on UAE roads. Lee Hoagland / The National
The Mini attracts a lot of attention on UAE roads. Lee Hoagland / The National

Khamis Al Mazrouei was watching a film with his children when he saw his dream car. "I wanted to own that car one way or another," he said. Today, he can't even remember the film, but he never forgot the car so, two years ago, the 33-year-old decided he needed to do something about it.

Al Mazrouei hunted down a 1994 Mini Cooper, which he believes is eye-catching and different. "You don't find this kind of car in the UAE," he said.

The Emirati ordered the car online and it was delivered to him from the United Kingdom. The only problem was that Britain drives on the left, so finding a Mini there with the steering wheel on the left was a tough job. "It is rare to find," he said. "And that is what made me work hard to get it."

Outside, it's distinctive by its diminutive size; inside, it's not exactly what you'd call luxurious. Originally, the car had no radio or air conditioning, but as A/C is a necessity if you're going to drive a car all year here, Al Mazrouei had it added afterwards. He also added accessories such as flashy Xenon lights and alloy wheels.

"Its frame attracts people quickly," he said. "Every time you ride in the car you attract attention."

Al Mazrouei, a mechanical technician at Takreer Refinery, surprised his family with the car, and they were all excited when they saw it for the first time. Now, his children always want to ride in it.

Daughters Maryam, 6, and five-year-old Mahrah get excited every time they ride in it, and they especially like riding it to school.

"They feel like big shots," Al Mazrouei said. His son Abdulla, 8, wants to learn how to drive the car so he can one day drive his father around. "The car is small and my son is young - their sizes fit," Al Mazrouei said.

At work, the little car was a hit with his colleagues, too. Many wanted to own one and asked him for his retailer; others made jokes about it, but almost everyone wanted to take a ride in it.

"It is artistic, classic and tiny," he said. "Everyone wants one of these."

Al Mazrouei said anywhere he goes, people stop and stare, and many strangers even ask him for a ride.

But he loves that the car attracts such attention and, to him, it's all about fun, a trait that reflects his own attitude to life. "In this car you will laugh to the extreme," he said.

Al Mazrouei thought it would be funny to have a sticker that read "Beware: truck ahead" on the car but the joke soon went wrong.

He was pulled over by two policemen who told him he was in trouble for having the sticker as he did not have a permit.

"I told them it was a joke and they started laughing," Al Mazrouei said. "They said they were joking around as well."

"They even told me to make [the sticker] a bit bigger," Al Mazrouei said, laughing.

The only problem with this car, according to Al Mazrouei, is that the spare parts are extremely hard to find, and very expensive.

Al Mazrouei recalled once when he was driving back from Dubai late at night the car gave up on him. He ended up having to wait nearly four months to find the parts required. He found many retailers in the UAE but the parts were almost double the price from outside the country, so he ordered online from retailers around the world, mostly from the UK.

"I was, and still am, looking for authentic pieces for the car," Al Mazrouei said.

He mentioned that Dh30 is enough to fill the tank with petrol, and the car would take you around Abu Dhabi for an entire week. "That's a lot, isn't it?" he said jokingly.

Al Mazrouei drives the car to Dubai regularly, but he says it's a bit too slow. "If you have an appointment at 7am, make sure you are on the road by 3am," he said.

Al Mazrouei loves this car but he still dreams of another car - an extreme opposite to the Mini. "The car is an indivisible part of me," he said. "But I wish to own a Mercedes G55." This would add to his existing E-Class Merc and Infinity FX.