Dubai’s Street Racing Scene Is a Sandstorm of Madness

Here is Al Warqaa, one of the premier places for street racing in Dubai.

Here is Al Warqaa, one of the premier places for street racing in Dubai.

Don’t fool yourself. The Middle East isn’t just filled with camels and sand and bombs and all of those stereotypes about being primitive. It is home to some of the richest people and richest cities in the entire world. And, probably the best of these cities is Dubai.

Dubai is a metropolis that was originally built on revenues from oil and natural gas. However, over the years, they have branched out into every discernible direction (now, oil and gas only make up 7% of their revenue).  It’s been voted as the best Middle Eastern City to live in, and it’s been named the 22nd most expensive city in the world. This excess of money has also funded a dangerous and exciting underground movement, as well.

During the 2000s, a new scene in Dubai started to gain traction. It was a scene fueled by drugs, alcohol, gambling, and it all centered around STREET RACING. Seemingly out of nowhere, it popularized and became extremely lucrative to certain black market businesses. In a 2006 interview conducted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, an unnamed auto shop owner in the Dubai area was quoted as saying, “One day one of my young customers asked me if I could help him make his car faster. One thing led to another and word spread.” Pretty soon, local body shops were funding the street races to make money and secure future business.

A picture from the outskirts of Dubai.

A picture from the outskirts of Dubai.

For the most part, these street races were taking place between 2 AM and 4 AM on some of the most popular strips in Dubai: Dubai-Al Ain Road, Al Khawaneej, and Al Warqaa. To keep police and unwanted drivers out of the way, onlookers would block off roads as they prepared to watch the race. Competing racers were young- 17 to 30 years old- and male dominated, which fit in perfectly with the Middle Eastern world. Roughly 60% of Middle Easterners are under 25 years old and are of course notorious for being male-centric.

But, all of this unregulated testosterone ended up becoming extremely dangerous. A slew of deaths and injuries were burning through the scene, and there was little that police could do to stop the racing. As reported in the Post-Gazette, “Chasing the racers, police say, would only add risk for everyone. The police say all they can do is try to take down plate numbers and summon car owners to the station the following day.”

A picture of Dubai's legal street racing circuit. Picture  courtesy of The New York Times.

A picture of Dubai’s legal street racing circuit. Picture courtesy of The New York Times.

Drivers got wise, though, and started taking the plates off of their cars. Really, as time went by, police realized that there wasn’t much they could do. That’s when the community got involved. Seeing that racing had become so popular, legitimate organizations like The Chase and The Emirates Motorplex sponsored safer racing scenes in Dubai. These races granted cash prizes and gave youths an outlet for their passions. It also decreased some of the crime.

Former street racer, Ahmed al-Kamda, says, “As you can see, there is a huge market for this sport, for drag racing. For them to open something and give us the opportunity so they can see our demands- you know, basically, if you have money to invest in a race car, you’re not going to drag it on the street, you’re going to bring it here.”

The new outlets have helped. Unfortunately though, it hasn’t been able to shut down all of the illegal street racing. Just this past year, during Ramadan, 300 cars were confiscated by police in Dubai because of their involvement in illegal street racing and stunt driving. It was a big bust for the local police force, but many citizens are still hesitant to drive in certain areas at certain times. It’s just what Dubai has become, and no one is willing to say that it is going away soon.

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