x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Dh2 million car fit for the Queen of Sheba

Rolls-Royce has put up the exclusive Phantom Venus for sale in Abu Dhabi. The Queen of Sheba-inspired model may set you back by Dh2.4million, but at least it comes with a matching handbag.

The new Rolls Royce has just arrived in Abu Dhabi. The RR Phantom, called 'Venus' (the ancient Roman goddess of Beauty), was inspired by the story of the Queen of Sheba.
The new Rolls Royce has just arrived in Abu Dhabi. The RR Phantom, called 'Venus' (the ancient Roman goddess of Beauty), was inspired by the story of the Queen of Sheba.

ABU DHABI // Buyers of Rolls-Royces expect their cars come with a whole bag of tricks, but a one-of-a-kind Phantom inspired by the Queen of Sheba comes with an actual handbag.

The Venus model went on sale in the capital this week with a Dh2,385,000 price tag that includes a matching crocodile-skin Asprey handbag.

It is just one of a number of bespoke features meant to reflect the beauty of the celebrated Queen who, 3,000 years ago, ruled Yemen and the surrounds.

The pearl white exterior is accentuated by hand-painted double coach stripes with a crown motif in gold intended to reflect her regal nature. The same crown shape appears on the handbag.

Yemen was traditionally known for the quality of the onyx found there, and diamond-shaped pieces of the semiprecious stone have been incorporated into the interior.

The Venus motif is repeated in the glovebox, and a floorplate proclaims the name of the car.

There are even leather scatter cushions bearing the Venus name and the words "One of one", reflecting the fact that this is the only Phantom Venus that will ever be made.

The idea for a Queen of Sheba special came from Kadhim Al Helli, brand manager at the Rolls-Royce showroom in Abu Dhabi, and the car was produced by the bespoke department at Rolls-Royce's factory at Goodwood, England.

Mr Al Helli decided to use the name "Venus" rather than Sheba because of its association with beauty.

"I wanted to show the beauty of the Queen of Sheba," he said. "Her beauty was not her face or her body, her beauty was that she was very wise.

"When I came to choose the colour combination I chose one that can suit a queen and the taste of my customers in Abu Dhabi. So I chose the pearl white paint and a very nice brownish interior."

The Abu Dhabi outlet is the largest Rolls-Royce showroom in the world, and Mr Al Helli said every car sold there contains at least one bespoke element. However it is not a normal bespoke operation, where customers order products to be made to their own specifications.

Instead, in the case of cars such as the Venus that have many special features, Mr Al Helli comes up with a concept, researches it and then passes on the specifications to the factory. His knowledge of his customers' tastes and preferences enables him to produce ideas that find willing buyers.

"Rolls-Royce customers in the Middle East don't like to order and wait," he said. "Customers here like their cars to reflect the culture and history of the region. I understand clearly their needs and I act accordingly."

The distinctive nature of bespoke cars sometimes wins over reluctant customers. One young man from Abu Dhabi acquired a share in his family's business on his 18th birthday, but decided against buying a Phantom because his father had one.

"So I ordered a bespoke Phantom, and when it arrived I called him and told him I wanted to show him the car," said Mr Al Helli. "He came and asked, 'What is unique?' and I said the colour combination. In five minutes he signed the cheque.

"After two years he purchased a second Phantom, a drophead. He got married and had a baby girl, and the wife said, 'The poor baby girl, we need a Phantom for her'. And he purchased another Phantom for the baby girl. They still have all three."

Mr Al Helli helps some customers who wish to have the interiors of their helicopters and yachts fitted out to match their bespoke Rolls-Royces.

More special editions are on the way. A Ghost inspired by 1,001 Arabian Nights has just been delivered to the showroom, and an upcoming model will have a pearl-diving theme.

csimpson@thenational.ae