“No no no no no”, the guard replied after I asked to enter the big red truck in the middle of the showroom.
There were steps just under the front engine, in between the two front wheels. It was clearly visible. They wanted us to know you COULD go up, even if you couldn’t go up. They wanted us to know. This wasn’t a place of subtly. The Emirates National Auto Museum was large, loud, and fabulous.
The Rainbow Sheikh, or more respectfully, Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, began collecting cars decades ago. He now owns close to 400 cars, trucks, and miscellaneous vehicles. If you travel past the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi, take a right towards Ghweifat, and truck onwards toward Hameem, you will find yourself at the sight of a great pyramid. Like Egypt, this pyramid is surrounded by wonders of the world. While not quite as awe-inspiring, the world replica trailer and rusting jumbo jet does make you stop and ponder life’s existence. The behemoth Jeep Wrangler parked next to a four story trailer doesn’t alleviate any confusion either. And we’re not even in the museum yet.
Inside, you will find this…
Inside the Big Red Truck is actually a four bedroom house. Ideally, it was a functional truck. A family would climb inside, the father of the family would pop on his stilt legs to reach the pedals, park himself down on 16 phone books (to see over the satellite dish size steering wheel), and would head off for the family’s weekly drive around town. Run a few errands, check in with the friends, and afterwards, stop at Home Depot to pick up the necessary materials for building an entire airport. Simple stuff. All this and be home for the night’s meal.
But that’s not all. Truck’s aside, this place is loaded.
Sheikh Hamad’s collection spans coupes, sedans, SUVs, wagons, and even a bedazzled replica of an electric car that Liberaci would be proud of. None of these match up, however, to the panorama of color that is his seven Rainbow-style Benzes. Ordered in 1983 and flown in from Germany, they remain a prize piece of his collection, a collection to marvel.
In an interview a few years back, Sheikh Hamad spoke of the reason for his affinity for car culture.
“The cars represent our bedouin lifestyle of the past. Always moving, one place to another.”
This is very true. A life of travel and wander most definitely categorizes the life of early Arab settlers. Now, that same desert is home to the the Emirates National Auto Museum, which from the outside world resembles a pyramid. Why a pyramid?
“The pyramids of Egypt were graves. So this is grave of the car.”
Very fitting for such a monstrous barrage of automobiles that may never see the scorching desert sun again. Also, fitting for the Rainbow Sheikh’s Big Red Truck. It’s axle is broken. So unless Sheikh Hamad fancies building himself a giant sized auto mechanic and workshop, the museum will continue to be for that Big Red Truck as he says, a “grave.”
But don’t lose too much sleep. You can always take out one of his seven Benzes. Not quite as monstrous, but equally as colorful.