x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

My Car: Whose car is it anyway?

The comedian Ali al Sayed is borrowing cars from friends and family, until, he hopes, a sponsor gives him a car.

Ali al Sayed hates that he only gets respect on the UAE roads when he is in an SUV; people ignore him when he drives a Corolla.
Ali al Sayed hates that he only gets respect on the UAE roads when he is in an SUV; people ignore him when he drives a Corolla.

Ali al Sayed is between cars. The last car he owned was a 2007 Mitsubishi Gallant but it is languishing unrepaired in a garage. At the moment, he is relying on an assortment of borrowed cars from friends and family, including a Chevrolet Tahoe, a Toyota Corolla, a BMW and a Nissan Sunny.

However, he hopes that one of the local car dealerships comes through with sponsorship in the form of a car to promote his co-owned, not-for-profit organisation Dubomedy, which runs comedy and dance workshops, comedy shows and community activities such as Clowns Who Care, a troupe that entertains children with special needs and in hospitals. A sponsored car would also be used to transport visiting celebrities that Dubomedy brings out for concerts and events.

The Dubai-based Emirati comedian says he loves driving more than one car but he hates "that cars define your status on the road".

"When I'm in a SUV, I don't even have to flash my light to be given way on the fast lane," he explains. "But other times, when you're in a white, rented Toyota Corolla, you find yourself flashing your light, honking, shaking your fist and yelling things in foreign languages, hoping that you could slightly intimidate the dude in front of you to have mercy and switch lanes."

He continues his Corolla rant: "Then after five minutes of trying to get the car up to 120kph, you finally achieve that - then another car cuts you off and you're back down to 60kph."

His first car was a Peugeot 306cc coupe that he bought when he was actually looking to buy an SUV. But he fell in love with the red and black leather interior of the convertible Pug and he has some advice for whoever might be driving the car now.

"If you're a new owner of this car, the way to open the trunk is inside the zero on the rear badge - they don't tell you that in the catalogue, it's some sort of weird French humour or something.

"I then moved on to a Japanese car; how wrong could you go with Mitsubishi? It was also fun because locals say 'Mis-too-beeshy.' Yes, my car had a localised nickname!" he laughs.

Over the years, al Sayed has also had his share of misadventures with his cars.

"Once I had a car die on me in the Dubai Trade Centre fifth-floor parking at midnight," he recalls. "The image of me pushing down a car five floors, take a U-turn and into the free parking area was funny. I even had my blinkers on when making turns as I am a law-abiding citizen.

"And I had the back bumber - that's bumper with an Emirati accent - fly off my Mis-too-beeshy," he says of the fate that has befallen the last car he owned. "I spent one-and-a-half hours after that stopping cars on the highway to ask if they saw a car bumper on the road."

It turned out that the bumper had been hidden in a tree. "I was then seen running on the 160kph Abu Dhabi highway with a bumper trying to cross the street."

When asked about any brushes with the law, al Sayed pretends to be defensive. "Who sent you?" he asks in mock horror. "Just because I owe the government Dh26,560 in speeding tickets, that does not make me a bad driver!"

But then al Sayed has a rare moment of seriousness when he says: "I've paid most of it off but I still have got some more to pay. Like me, many people learnt their lesson and the new fine structure has actually made some motorists slower, hence safer."