Abu Dhabi's Rainbow Garage
The Emirates can hardly be accused of holding back when it comes to superlatives. Everyone knows about the world’s tallest building, and the two 7-star hotels. But the world’s largest pickup? The world’s largest recreational vehicle? The world’s largest mobile home?
If you have just a whiff of petrol coursing through your veins, you will surely want to make a pilgrimage to one of Abu Dhabi’s best kept secrets – the personal car collection of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, more popularly known as the Rainbow Sheikh. It’s not a museum you will find listed in the official Abu Dhabi tourism lists. But don’t let that put you off.
Although officially a museum, it is in reality a warehouse, in the shape of a pyramid, housing some 200-plus cars. Don’t expect to find any signs giving details of the automobiles themselves. This is very much a do-it-yourself, take-it-as-you-find-it display into which His Highness generously allows the public to enter. Do, however, expect to have your socks blown off by the amazing collection that is as unique as it is quirky.
Pride of place goes to an enormous replica of a 1950s Dodge Pickup – only this one is eight times the size of a normal Dodge and is reported to weigh over 50 tonnes. Inside are four bedrooms and all conveniences for luxury living. It is said that its size was purely limited by the size of the wheels that the Sheikh could get hold of – wheels off an oil rig transporter. At one time it could even drive under its own power (which assured it of a place in the Guinness Book of Records); but sadly the drive shaft broke after 26kms and so it remains to this day the centrepiece of a collection of cars you are unlikely to find together anywhere else on the planet.
Outside, in the car park, you will find the world’s largest recreational vehicle in the shape of planet Earth. It is said to be exactly one millionth the size of the real thing. Inside there are ten bedrooms set on three levels. But this itself is dwarfed by the largest caravan in the world parked just a few metres away. With 14 bedrooms and even car parking space incorporated into its enormous frame, this could well be one of the reasons the museum is located way out in the desert, simply so that traffic in downtown Abu Dhabi doesn’t come to a grinding halt if, as and when the Sheikh decides to take it for a spin!
Within the collection are the seven special Mercedes 500 SELs that earned the Sheikh his nickname. The story goes that for a wedding present, Sheikh Hamad called Mercedes-Benz in Germany requiring them to construct seven cars in each of the colours of the rainbow with matching interiors, including dashboard, rear-view mirror, steering wheel and gear lever; and so seven cars in Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red were duly shipped out to Abu Dhabi – one for each day of the week.
Apart from that, you can ogle at vehicles from all over the globe, including a very detailed replica of an 1890s Benz 3-wheeler, a collection of 4-wheel drive vehicles, American and European limousines of varying vintage, racing cars, military vehicles … and each turn leads you to something else to be discovered.
There is a workshop located behind the building, ensuring that all exhibits are kept in excellent condition. Some 80 of them are still roadworthy and there are often empty spaces indicating where some of the exhibits are normally kept when not in use.
Outside, there is a coffee shop that charges prices reflecting the remote location; and a “heritage village” is currently under construction. Camel rides are also available.
To get to the collection, take the Abu Dhabi road from Dubai but stay on the E11 at the turn off to Abu Dhabi Island (E10). Follow signs for Al Ghweifat which is the road to the Saudi border. (From Abu Dhabi take the Mussafah-Al Ain Truck Rd and turn onto the E11, following signs for Tarif/Al Ghweifat.) Take exit 306 onto the E65, signposted to Hameem. 13kms later you will see a giant Land Rover parked facing the road, and behind it the pyramid housing the collection.
For those with a GPS, the museum is located at 24° 05′ 54”N, 54° 25′ 08”E
After visiting the museum, you could drive a further 140km to reach the beautiful Liwa oasis and some of the largest sand dunes on earth at Tal Moreeb.