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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

The air bag: Forget traffic – Dubai is a driver’s paradise

For all the drudgery, the almost static commuting and insane driving we see in Dubai, this is still one of the best places anywhere on the planet to be a driving enthusiast.
The Emirates Classic Car Festival. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The Emirates Classic Car Festival. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Last week I had a bit of an overdue moan about the state of the roads around Dubai Marina, and you might have thought I hated driving in this country. But you’d be wrong – I’m a dyed-in-the-wool car guy, after all, and this emirate is nothing if not a paradise for anyone who loves cars.

It seems that, no matter where I am in the world, people are always complaining that driving isn’t fun any more. And for all the drudgery, the almost static commuting and insane driving we see in Dubai, this is still one of the best places anywhere on the planet to be a driving enthusiast.

I’m not talking about the low cost of fuel and insurance – welcome though that is – but the roads we have at our disposal. When I arrived four years ago, like many, I suspected straight and congested roads were all that were available. I attended a number of local new-car launches where the drive routes consisted of driving in loops from Motor City up to Silicon Oasis and back, all at horrendously busy (and dangerous) times of day – the only curves experienced were within the confines of Dubai Autodrome. It was depressing.

But as I increased my social circles to include more than just my wife, I came to meet like-minded people who love nothing more than to go for a weekend thrash along twisting mountain roads. Many of these people couldn’t understand why the car manufacturers weren’t more adventurous with their test routes. There were, I was promised, some of the world’s greatest driving roads on our doorstep.

Over those four years, this has proved true. When I have a performance car to test, I know that, barely an hour outside the city, Dubai won’t let me down. Hatta, entirely surrounded by my very favourite roads, is an exclave of the emirate. I might have to drive through Sharjah to get there, but the ultimate destination for a blast and a spot of lunch at the Hatta Fort Hotel is part of Dubai.

It isn’t just the roads, either. There’s a burgeoning car culture here that’s gathering momentum. When I say culture, I don’t mean seeing a Ferrari on every street corner (I counted eight the other day, in the space of five minutes), but rather an appreciation for truly special ­vehicles.

The annual Emirates Classic Car Festival in Downtown Dubai near the Burj Khalifa is evidence that the classic-car scene here is on the verge of exploding – it has grown tremendously in the short time I’ve been here, which pleases me more than I can say. I see these wonderful cars in more day-to-day use, especially in the winter months, and they always turn heads that are unmoved by the latest Italian exotica roaring around the streets. The ­classic-car scene here is getting so strong even I have taken the plunge and bought my own, safe in the knowledge that the expertise is now here to maintain such vehicles – and that appreciation levels will be enormous.

Dubai’s biennial motor show gets bigger and better every time, and the emirate is so keen to appeal to fans of all things motoring that the Dubai Motor Festival has become a regular annual fixture on the calendar, hosting sporting championships, family days out and free luxury car rides for all – all on four wheels.

When my father visited me two summers ago, he was gobsmacked by the sheer amount of new supercars he saw, but as I explained to him, you soon get over that and it ceases to have any impact. What I haven’t got over, though, is Dubai’s ability and willingness to entertain and surprise even this jaded hack when it comes to enjoying the humble motor car. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and sit in some Marina traffic.

motoring@thenational.ae

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