x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

My Car: Toyota Land Cruiser is part of student's social circle

Despite it being a "man's car", Amani Al Nahdi says her Land Cruiser is just like one of her girlfriends.

Amani Al Nahdi, who did not want to be photographed, doesn't mind that people say her car is masculine as it is a smooth ride and it accommodates her girlfriends in comfort. Lee Hoagland / The National
Amani Al Nahdi, who did not want to be photographed, doesn't mind that people say her car is masculine as it is a smooth ride and it accommodates her girlfriends in comfort. Lee Hoagland / The National

Amani Al Nahdi, a 20-year-old student at the Petroleum Institute, used to drive any car available at home to practise her driving skills. She first started driving a Toyota Corolla, and then was afforded the pleasure of driving her mother's Mercedes C350 and her father's Porsche Cayenne.

But she needed her own set of wheels and she eventually settled on a white 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser with a beige interior after her mother had unintentionally turned her onto the idea.

Al Nahdi's mother wanted a larger car for the household, but she didn't figure on her daughter driving it full time. She didn't like the idea that her daughter would be speeding around in such a big car, and her family thought she wouldn't be able to drive it because of its size and big V8 engine.

"I love a challenge," Al Nahdi says. "[And] I proved them wrong."

Al Nahdi rides the car on a daily basis wherever she needs to go. "I like that it's suitable for everywhere," she says.

That's especially true for her home of Bani Yas, a place that can be hard on any car, with its rough roads and weathered paths, but the Land Cruiser soaks up the uneven surfaces with ease.

Al Nahdi enjoys driving on the capital's smooth roads more but even in Abu Dhabi there's peril as some side streets are far too narrow for the big Land Cruiser, which has ended up with her scratching her car on occasion.

Her favourite place to ride in her Land Cruiser though is out on the open motorway, where the SUV shines.

"A V8 is more powerful and stronger than a V6," she says. "Although it burns a bit more fuel compared to the V6, when it comes to the highway, she's a beauty, both in power and not eating up fuel."

She also likes the car's comfort and spaciousness, and especially how quiet it is, blocking out the road and wind noise inside the cabin, she says.

Many people approach Al Nahdi and ask her why she drives a "man's" car, but that doesn't deter her. "It excites me even more to drive it," she says. Even her student friends think the car doesn't suit her. "They always ask me 'how can you drive this car?'" she says. "They claim it makes me look older."

But Al Nahdi and her friends use the Land Cruiser almost every day of the week. On weekdays after classes, four of her close friends get in and, depending on the weather, go cruising. And on Thursdays, between seven to nine girls wedge into the car for a fun night out.

"The car turns into my house sometimes," she says, laughing.

And it doubles as their dining room, too, when the girls pick up some food, or a living room when sitting in the comfy chairs when the weather is cool enough and the windows are rolled down. Other times, it becomes a bedroom when someone decides to take a nap in the back seat - it definitely has the space. The car also becomes a study room when the girls are looking for a quiet place to hit the books away from noise.

Since most of Al Nahdi's friends drive tiny cars that can't fit the whole group, the Land Cruiser becomes the vehicle of choice when they plan to go out. In fact, when she told her friends she was considering getting a new car, they got upset, worried they would lose the perfect car for their fun drives.

And fun drives have to include music, something the Land Cruiser excels at. "The sound system [in the car] is amazing," she says. "It is distributed perfectly." Al Nahdi and her friends listen to a mix of different music genres: from hip-hop, to R 'n' B, to blues. The girls also listen to Arabic music by Miami Band, Abdul Majeed Abdulla and Rashid Al Majid. But even though the music is blasting in the car, the joking and conversation never stops between the girls. And through it all, the Land Cruiser is just part of the gang.

"She's my girlfriend," Al Nahdi says about her big SUV, with a smile.