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Car Museum showcases 200 vehicles, Abu Dhabi’s history Silvia Radan / 23 March 2014 Shaikh Hamad created the museum to host much of his car collection, some that he bought himself, some that he built or modified to suit his taste and some that he received as a gift. A suspended, supersized four-wheel vehicle towers over Hameem Road in Abu Dhabi’s Al Gharbia region. A series of speed bumps are meant to slow down every driver, in case the sight tempts him to take his eyes off the road for a bit too long. Those curious enough to stop and check out the suspended Land Rover, will find inside not giant seats, but a small grocery shop and, “upstairs” (yes, it’s big enough to have two floors), a cafe. Behind it, more strikingly oversized vehicles and structures lead the way to the massive pyramid building that houses the Car Museum. Never advertised, barely talked about publicly, rarely in the limelight, the Car Museum is a private one, exhibiting about 200 vehicles, all belonging to Shaikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, along with a good chunk of Abu Dhabi’s modern history. “Do you see those two water towers over there? They used to be the Tourist Club water tanks in Abu Dhabi, and because of their shape, they used to be called the Onion Towers,” said Khalfan Al Romaithi, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, who was visiting the museum with his son Sultan for the third time. Fenced off right next to the museum, the 90s Onion Towers are now known as Aladdin’s Palace! A house in the shape of a massive Earth globe on wheels leads the way to the museum entrance. Next to it is “Al Houdaj”, another house on wheels, built to resemble the seat placed on a camel for women travellers through the desert in the days long gone, a seat known as Al Houdaj. A notice board explains this is one of Shaikh Hamad’s Guinness Book of Records entries, bestowed on him for “manufacturing the largest two-wheeled caravan.” Rainbow Mercedes at the museum. -Supplied photo Officially known as the Emirates National Auto Museum, Shaikh Hamad created the museum to host much of his car collection, some that he bought himself, some that he built or modified to suit his taste and some that he received as a gift. There are cars dating as far back as the 1880s, all the way to 2007. “Shaikh Hamad is known as the Rainbow Shaikh because in the early 80s he painted each of his seven Mercedes 500 SEL in a different rainbow colour. When he learnt that this got him the Rainbow Shaikh nickname, he painted one more Mercedes in all rainbow colours,” explained Al Romaithi. As a young boy, Al Romaithi used to play with Shaikh Hamad’s sons and now, each visit to the Car Museum is one down memory lane. Walking passed the eight wheels Nissan that was recently featured in a Top Gear UK TV show filmed in Abu Dhabi, Al Romaithi stops in front of an enormous Dodge pick up truck. “Dodge was the car used to go out in the desert to look for petrol here, in Abu Dhabi. This one, built in 1994, is about five times the size of a normal Dodge,” said Al Romaithi. “It can move at maximum five kilometres per hour, and the museum has a special door that can open to take it out, if the Shaikh ever needs to,” he added. The eight metres wide Dodge weighs nearly 50 tonnes, sporting wheels from an oil rig transporter. In a rare strike of luck, the inside of the truck was opened and we could have a quick visit. A fully equipped home, with showers, TVs, air conditioning units and furniture in the 70s style revealed itself. Army trucks, a New York taxi, a Mini collection that includes a Padmini S1 made in India in 1997, a 1928 Ford T and a 1967 Pontiac Firebird, all in great shape, are among the exhibits. “These Kenworth truck used to, and still do, transport oil rigs in the desert. They have 18 gears forward and 12 in reverse,” pointed out Al Romaithi. One of the most expensive vehicles in the collection is the “Queen’s Rolls”. The Rolls Royce RR Phantom 6 was the car used by Queen Elizabeth the II during her first visit to Abu Dhabi in the 70s. For Hamad Al Kharoosi, an Emirati visitor from Al Ain, the most exciting vehicle was a 1988 GMC Sierra. “This was my father’s first car! I used to sit in the back and fight with my sister over the single air conditioning spot. Later on, I learnt how to drive on this car,” said Hamad. Back in the outdoors, in the museum’s backyard there is yet another Guinness Record supersized 4×4 and a pretty old looking commercial aircraft that, rumour has it, still has “everything” inside, even the galleys. firstname.lastname@example.org For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/khaleejtimes , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →
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