A busman’s holiday where petrol costs 37 cents per litre
I got a little fed up of snow and ice over the last few weeks so decided that it was time for some sunshine. A family gathering meant that Dubai, where many of my wife’s family reside was going to provide a welcome break from skidding into hedges.
We abandoned the car in Dublin airport just as the snow was beginning to thaw and a mere 12 hours later landed into 25 degrees of sunshine. My brother in law does the same sort of job as I do here in Ireland, except the magazine he writes for happens to be his own. And he doesn’t do Micras. There isn’t much call for them in Dubai.
Sure enough, Dubai has struggled over the last couple of years and the empty shells that we pass on the way from the airport, which were supposed to be the next biggest and best development mean that Dubai has its own ‘ghost estates’ – these ones are just a little more spectacular in their emptiness.
Within seconds of being here, though, you see that there is still immense wealth when it comes to automobiles. That doesn’t necessarily mean that taste comes with the wealth. Sure enough, there is plenty of nice metal around. You can see why Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche still exist when the world seems to be falling apart. They could just sell cars to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and still stay in business.
But, when rich oil barrons get bored, they run out of things to spend money on and that is where things get ugly. Prestige Cars, a dealership in Abu Dhabi is one example of where these cars can be bought by the rich in cash but not taste. There are no prices on any of the cars, but then if you have to ask the price, well – you know the rest.
Take this beauty. Someone has managed to imagine that a blue and gold Roller would be just the ticket. Stroll down the road to Princess Cars and you will find a Ferrari Enzo on sale beside two McLaren SLRs.
My car for my first few days in Dubai was rather fitting. It was a Bentley. A Continental SuperSport in Dubai costs AED 1,000,000, which is €207,000 and this is a country with no tax. I was pretty scared when I rolled up to the petrol station, clutching my Dirhams preparing to pay for a tank full of Bentley. 90-litres later and I handed over €33. That’s right. In Dubai, where they are moaning about fuel prices, it costs the equivalent of 37 cents per litre. In Ireland it would cost €126 per fill up.
Driving here isn’t much fun. There are speed cameras everywhere and you get fined around €200 per time, which is over 100km/h. There are few corners here either. The roads are lined up like American highways and the driving is boring and terrible. There are some of the world’s finest supercars here and you can’t drive them properly.
I swapped the Bentley for the Nissan 370Z Roadster later in the week and that felt much more like home. It is regarded as pretty cheap in the UAE and with a mere 3.7-litre V6 it is cheap to buy and cheap to run.
What they make of the Fiat 500 here is a mystery then. The car has just gone on sale for around €9,000 and looks fiercely out of place next to the Hummers and Nissan Armadas that dominate the highways.
As for me. I like Dubai in the same way I like Disneyland. It is a theme park for the rich and undoubtedly somewhere that you can make lots of money very quickly.
It is time to return to Dublin Airport tommorow, to snow, ice and a Volkswagen Golf diesel. And I can’t wait.