Going into uncharted territory can either be utterly nerve-racking, or undoubtedly exciting.
Being that I had never left the North American continent before, the latter is predominantly how I felt when I packed my bags and made way over the Atlantic Ocean, to a neighboring country not too far from my own origin. That’s not to say I wasn’t a bit nervous though, too.
Before lifting off out of the Bay Area, the flight attendants assured me that the flight would go by in a breeze, but that ended up not being the case.
After flying at 35,000 feet for what seemed like forever, and making a few connection flights along the way, I finally touched down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a city that serves as the capital of the country, and known most notably as the financial hub or epicenter of Saudi Arabia.
Here, you’ll find citizens living out lavish lifestyles in a booming economy, with a plethora of upscale malls, national museums, and stunning architecture spread out amongst the desert plateau.
But my purpose during this trip wasn’t to indulge in what the city has to offer – though we did manage to sneak away a few times for some fun in the desert. This trip was dedicated to one thing: car culture in the Middle East, a matter I find painstakingly underrated.
Sure, we’ve all had our fair share of witnessing dangerous stunts pulled off on Saudi roads with RB-swapped Patrols and 2JZ-swapped Land Cruisers stomping out supercars in drag races, and even changing out tires on their trucks while on two wheels, cruising down the highways while smoking shisha out of a hookah. But those viral videos just go to show how wild and carefree the culture and people really are, while simultaneously displaying the amount of craftsmanship and work they’re willing to put in, in something as nonchalant as a ’90s Nissan Patrol.
But the real culture lay far deeper than that. It’s alive and prevailing here, more than I could have ever imagined. And if I’m honest, it’s quite comparable or even surpassing the quality of what I’ve seen come out of Japan or the States.
Over the course of the next few stories we’ll be taking a deep dive into the Global Auto Salon Riyadh – the Middle Eastern version of Monterey Car Week, to really understand, grasp, and appreciate a small token in what Saudi Arabian car culture has to offer.
I bring these stories to you all with the upmost excitement, truly, because I feel it’s been long overdue. I have many friends scattered around the Middle Eastern countries, and some of the cars I’ve seen will truly blow your minds in terms of quality and creativity, so I’m really looking forward to shedding some light on them. Stay tuned for what’s coming next…