x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The Air Bag: Goodbye UAE and goodbye driving

Motoring deputy editor, Georgia Lewis, who is moving to London and a life without a car, writes a swan song to her Mitsubishi Pajero.

I am relieved to be writing my final Air Bag, happy in the knowledge that my car has been sold and the new owners are merrily driving the car known as Pajero McBeastie around the UAE. Now I am thinking about my next move, to London, where I will be car-less for the first time in my adult life and using public transport.

But I almost didn't finalise the sale before my flight out of here.

Last weekend, my buyer and I thought we had all the necessary paperwork until the Dubai RTA computer said that I had taken out a loan on the car.

"I paid off the loan almost two years ago," I said.

"You need a clearance letter from the bank," I was informed.

"But if the bank can tell your computer that I had a loan, surely it can tell you the loan is paid off?"

Apparently not. So it was off to the nearest branch to get a letter printed. Naively, I thought this would be a simple matter of hitting Control+P, getting a stamp and then I'd on my way.

Wrong again. Even though I could see the information about my discharged loan on the screen, it was "not possible" to print this. Instead, a request would have to be made and it would take three working days. With less than a week before flying out of the UAE for good, this made me mildly nervous. One last kick in the pants thanks to needless bureaucracy.

But the good news: I went to another branch of this bank, found a competent manager and in two hours, rather than three days, I had a clearance letter and the sale was complete.

By the time you read this, I will be miles away reflecting on my incredible ride as a motoring journalist in the UAE. Despite my constant rants on road safety and the often sorry state of driving, it was a privileged life I led.

I was delighted to join the exclusive club of journalists who have driven the incredible Bugatti Veyron, I travelled from Morocco to Detroit and several countries in between in the name of duty and I met many wonderful people: the entertaining Emirati women from the Women's Auto Racing Club who I am proud to call my friends; inspiring road safety campaigners such as Lesley Cully who is urging all UAE parents to buckle up their children in cars; Mohd Shanawaz, whose work through the Suraya Foundation is raising awareness on reckless driving; motorsport champions such as "Hot" Rod Fuller, the drag racing legend and car company CEOs, such as Lamborghni's charismatic Stephan Winkelmann and Nissan-Renault's fabulously opinionated Carlos Ghosn, both of whom are fascinating men to interview.

And I met countless UAE car enthusiasts whose joy for all things automotive is infectious.

I will certainly think of the good times behind the wheel when I find my commute stymied by a Tube strike. I wonder if I will end up biting the bullet in London and buying a car. Yes, I know it's a nuts idea with the UK's high fuel prices and London's notorious congestion charge.

Still, one thing is certain - if I do buy another car, it will not be another Mitsubishi Pajero. If you are ever in London and you spot a tiny 1.0L Nissan Figaro driven by an Australian woman who is shouting "Yalla!" at slow drivers, it may well be me.