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January 19th, 2011 | Asia

The Rainbow Sheikh and the Road to Liwa…

I was at Doha International Airport at 4.45am, ready for a long day…

See those big holes front and back...?? That's where the Big Fella will be gently placed next week...!! Out of Arabia and onto the Sub-Continent...!!

Off the highway and heading down into the desert, passing one of the massive compounds where migrant workers are "kept"...

At 10.00am I touched down in Abu Dhabi, and an hour later arrived at the Wrigley’s house… An hour after that, I was packed and loaded and ready to ride to the Liwa Oasis…

The entire gulf area was shrouded in thick cloud, and I decided to don my raincoat… Just in case…!! And it was a good thing I did…!!

The roads in Abu Dhabi are laid out in a grid pattern, and one you have the direction you need to go in fixed in your head, then getting about is fairly easy…

I headed out of town, and took the highway that ran west along the coast towards the Saudi Border, and then turned south on the E65 to Himeem, 150 kms away…

An endless line of dump trucks wound their way down this same road, conveying all the rubbish generated by the good citizens of Abu Dhabi, to an incinerator situated out in the desert…

The trucks then returned empty, presumably to fetch yet another load…

Just beyond the turnoff to the dumpsite, I came upon the residence of the “Rainbow Sheikh”, a very colourful character by all accounts…

Entrance to one of Sheikh Hamad's many homes...

A friendly security guard came out to meet me when I parked in front of the gates to enquire about the entrance to the sheikhs car museum, which houses the world’s largest private collection of vehicles… (Over 200 at last count…!!)

The museum that Malcolm suggested I visit...

Malcolm had suggested I stop here and take a quick look around on my way down to the oasis, and although the museum was closed, and no amount of pleading on my part would make the caretaker open it for me, I was nevertheless glad that I had stopped there…

Sheikh Hamd bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, whose father was cousin to Sheik Zayed, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, has built a huge pyramid-like structure out in the desert to house his collection of cars…

He also designed and had built, a number of vehicles that either found their way into the records books, or are famous for their uniqueness…

As I rode up to the parking area, I could see part of an enormous globe, and as I got closer, I saw that it was mounted on a trailer…!! This globe houses ten bedrooms, would you believe…!!

Seeing is believing...!! No need to pinch yourself...!!

Dark Side of the Globe...!! Pink Floyd needs to release the sequel...!!

Behind it, is the world largest mobile home, which had 8 bedrooms en-suite, and four garages…!!

Quite proud of his achievement, obviously...!!

And here it is...!! A veritable MONSTER...!! Imagine pulling up to the Vaal Dam Caravan Park in this...!!

Near that is a Mercedes Benz a-la-Bigfoot…!!

And then there's this little number... Contact your nearest Merc dealer for a test drive...!!

Inside the building is the world’s largest truck, a Dodge Power Wagon, 8 times the original size… He is apparently able to tow both the Globe and the huge Caravan with this truck…!! This colossal vehicle weighs 50 tons, and had four bedrooms in the cab…!!

The Sheikh got the moniker “Rainbow Sheikh”, when in 1983, he ordered seven, identical Mercedes Benz 500 SEL’s, and had  them painted in the seven colours of the rainbow, complete with matching upholstery…!! In the trunk of each, he had gun racks fitted to hold M16 automatic rifles, and the rifles are also painted to match the colour of the car they are in…!!

At first I thought this was just one of those loonies with a lot of money to spend, but I later discovered that the Sheikh is widely known as an extremely generous and caring philanthropist, who had made donation to medical centres in many countries, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia. (Where he just happens to own a 4200 square kilometre cattle farm, amongst other things…!!)

He is also a consultant (free of charge) on the development of 4 x 4 vehicles for both Renault and Nissan, and is seen as an expert in this field…

He is passionate about Arabic poetry and can apparently quote lengthy verses from works by famous Arab poets…

A very interesting man by all accounts…

While I was strolling about, a pickup arrived and the two occupants came over to look at the Big Fella, who was a little down in the mouth at being left uncovered while I was gallivanting about in Bahrain and Qatar… It had rained while I was away, and the bike was filthy…!! This even though the Wrigley’s Ethiopian maid, Almaz, had given it a quick wipe while I was loading my kit…!!

Jose and Mallem, who presented me with a Harley pendant to remember him by...!!

Mallem Ahsene, an Algerian, and Jose, a Spaniard, were on their way to Abu Dhabi for the weekend, after a long week out in the desert, where they work on a oil and gas well… Mallem had been to South Africa a few years previously, and ridden a Harley from Pretoria to Cape Town…

After buying me lunch, Mallem gave me a Harley Davidson pendant to remember him by, and put it around my neck while I stood grinning in surprise at his kind gesture…

I am constantly amazed by the great people I meet in the strangest of place and circumstances, and Mallem and Jose slot right in there with all the others I have mentioned in my posts…!!

Thanks for the memories guys and I hope you’ll come to South Africa again in the future Mallem, so that I can show you other places that you did not get to see the first time around…!!

I saddled up and headed back into the desert, where clouds were building up, and occasional splatters of rain made the road “slippery when wet”…!!

The E65 stretches out as we head for the Liwa Oasis, 150 clicks away... And yes, those are rain clouds hanging out there...!!

The E65 rain straight and true, with only the odd dip in the road to keep me from nodding off…

I spent the majority of the ride snapping photos of the surrounding desert, delighting in the changing shapes of the dunes and the variety of colours that paraded on either side of me…

I am not quite sure what it is about the desert that holds my attention so… Perhaps it’s the solitude, the silence… or maybe because it is such a harsh and unforgiving place, waiting to test you if you make a mistake and are caught unprepared for the worst…

After those weird vehicles, I needed to get back to things I could comprehend...!! Like the undulating sands of the Arabian Desert...

And then of course, there is the ever-changing stark beauty of it all…

You gotta love it…!!

©GBWT 2011

3 comments to The Rainbow Sheikh and the Road to Liwa…

  • Kim

    Quick, hop around the globe – finish your world trip and you can be home by the weekend!!!!
    I suppose that trailer at the Vaal could not be described as “trailer-trash”…. some serious homes/vehicles/or whatever…
    The desert – you always seem to be attracted to it – I think it holds a certain mystical power within you!!!
    Enjoy and BIG kisses
    K

  • Mark Behr

    A pity you didn’t get to see all the cars. Interesting man, the Rainbow Sheikh. You need to tell him you are from the Rainbow Nation and ask him to pop over in his caravan for a weekend. I can just imagine Koos’ face.

  • Charmz

    Can just imagine what the inside of the globe must look like……

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