x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Seeking a vroom with a view?

A popular sight in the US, American recreation vehicles, better know as RV's, are starting to gain popularity in the UAE.

Interior photograph of the kitchen and living room in the XLR Thunderbolt RV by Forest River on sale at Gulf Coast RVs in Dubai
Interior photograph of the kitchen and living room in the XLR Thunderbolt RV by Forest River on sale at Gulf Coast RVs in Dubai

Colin Simpson

DUBAI // Big vehicles are a common sight on the UAE's roads - but a new breed of mammoths is dwarfing even the stretched Hummers.

The country's first showroom specialising in American recreational vehicles, or RVs - giant motorhomes and trailers packed with creature comforts - opened on Sheikh Zayed Road last year.

Business at Gulf Coast RVs was slow at first but sales have started to pick up as more and more people are lured by the American approach to enjoying the great outdoors in comfort.

"It took some time to pick up because the product didn't exist here, we were the first to have this idea in the GCC," said Mazen Kalach, the general manager. "We have delivered nine units so far, there are three in the pipeline and we are closing deals with some potential prospects.

"It's an addictive product - when people see one, they want it. We started in Dubai and now we are opening a showroom in Abu Dhabi."

RVs are much-loved in the US, where some owners live in them permanently as they shuttle from state to state. Others use them for trips to national parks or other beauty spots. They have featured in many TV shows and movies, including the 2006 comedy RV, starring Robin Williams.

In the UAE they are proving to be the perfect choice for either a weekend away or a road trip.

"People use them to go to the desert, they go hunting and they go to the beach," Mr Kalach said. "Most people are using them at the weekend or to go on vacations within the GCC countries."

Gulf Coast RVs is the GCC agent for vehicles made by US company Forest River, which cost between Dh60,000 and Dh800,000. At the lower end are truck campers - simple affairs that fit over a pickup truck. Next comes the pop-up trailer, which has a tent-like structure stowed inside a trailer.

There are two types of large trailers - one designed to be taken to holiday destinations and set up for two or three weeks, the other for touring.

At the top end are two types of motorhomes. Class C models have a separate cab, while Class A types resemble buses and can be up to 11 metres long. Sharif Al Awadhi, 40, an Emirati businessman from Dubai, chose the latter.

The vast Georgetown model he picked up from the showroom is the third RV his family has owned - the previous two were brought over from the US.

"We keep it in a shed at our farm and use it for picnics when we go out," Mr Al Awadhi said. "When the weather is good we go to Hatta, we go to Fujairah and sometimes we go out of the country. It's like a movable house."

The vehicles sleep up to eight people and typically come with spacious bathrooms, TVs, air-conditioning, fridges, cookers and other home comforts. A host of extras such as marble kitchen surfaces, solid-wood units, a flame-effect fire and even a built-in observatory can be added. Some models have side sections that slide outward at the touch of a button to provide extra space inside.

Anyone who does not have a few hundred thousand dirhams to spare but still wants to sample the RV experience can hire a trailer for Dh3,700 per day, complete with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and driver.

While most buyers are nationals from the UAE and other Arabian Gulf countries, the rental service is aimed at tourists and expats.

It even has celebrity appeal - Mr Kalach said one of the Arab world's most popular female singers hired a trailer last week.