Dubai is a playground for the rich, but it's not where you want to be if you fall into debt. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), like other countries in the Middle East, practices Sharia Law. Under Sharia Law, it's illegal to have outstanding unpaid debts, and the crime is punishable by imprisonment. So, when residents of Dubai know they're going to default, many flee the country to avoid this fate.
In 2008, during the World Financial Crisis, many people from around the world working in Dubai were laid off from high-paying jobs. Some people tried to hide their cars, while others left them in airport parking lots and on roadsides. Some of the cars were left with apology notes, while others were left badly burned or vandalized.
Even cars with apology notes were left unprotected in the elements to waste away. Many of the interiors were destroyed or melted in the hot desert. Furthermore, people running from debts couldn't return to Dubai without facing their financial troubles. Plus, Sharia Law makes no exceptions for circumstances beyond the debtor's control.
Even citizens of Dubai who run after falling behind on bills can't return to their home country without facing the possibility of imprisonment. So, the problem affects citizens and temporary residents from countries around the world as well.
No matter the reason, it's difficult for any car enthusiast, including myself, to see these beautiful cars wasting away in the sun. However, you really have to see them to believe what's happening. So, take a look at the 20 dream cars I found dumped in Dubai's desert.
20 Extremely Rare Jaguar XJ220
The Jaguar XJ220 is an extremely rare car with a bit of a backstory, yet here it sits abandoned on the side of the road. The engine is in the center of the car, directly behind the driver's seat. It's visible through the rear hatch window, making the car look super exotic. The smooth lines are an attractive contrast that gives it class.
This XJ220 is a beautiful super deep blue that's absolutely breathtaking. Jaguar took deposits on this model before manufacturing began. However, the company wasn't able to produce the vehicle to the exact specifications given at that time. Instead of the all-wheel-drive vehicle promised, buyers received a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Many were unhappy and fought the company, but a judge supported Jaguar in the lawsuit.
19 White CLS 63 AMG
This is yet another Mercedes CLS 63 with the AMG kit. This one was left on a street and covered by sand. Sand is a major problem in Dubai since it's a desert. Cars have to fight the elements daily. It's hot, and the mixture of hot air and sand is hard on a vehicle. This is especially true when a vehicle sits in the hot baking sun for extended periods of time. Many of these vehicles are left with the keys in the vehicle or with the doors unlocked. Teenagers from Dubai often take videos while walking around the city. They spot abandoned cars and open them to take a look inside. The interiors are almost always completely deteriorated, either from people taking parts out or from the harsh elements in the desert climate.
18 BMW M6
The BMW M6 is one of my favorite cars. The body is big and curvy. It's definitely nice to look at when it's not covered with a thick layer of sand. Locals have scribbled messages on the sporty luxury coupe. This further damages the car as the sand scrapes the red paint and leaves permanent swirls.
Nevertheless, you can see the beauty of this car even in its current condition. Other than the fact that the owner dumped it on the side of the road, this M6 looks great. The 5.0-liter V10 engine produces 500 horsepower. Gas mileage isn't great, though, at 11 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, but you expect that when you drive a V10.
17 Convertible Porsche Boxster
Porsches are a favorite among expats living in Dubai. The weather is great all year, so the convertible is really useful. Like project manager, Andy Blair, the owner of this vehicle was likely an expat working in Dubai to receive the tax benefits and a higher paycheck.
During the good times, working in Dubai was a dream come true for many people. The great weather, the financial rewards, and the experience of working in the richest place in the world were all reasons to work in the UAE. Plus, when the economy was good, it was a great place to find interesting job opportunities and to advance your career. In this country, expats are allowed to return after leaving a debt; they just need to clear the debt first before attempting to come back.
16 Sky Blue Lamborghini
Covered with a tarp outside of a used-car market is a sky-blue Lamborghini. Many owners cover their vehicles when they abandon them. Maybe it's done because the owners hope to have money to pay the bill before it's too late. Or maybe, they do it out of respect for the supercars they're ditching.
Not only do some of these owners cover the outsides of these vehicles; some of the owners carefully cover the interiors with plastic wrap as well. However, covering the interiors or exteriors of a vehicle abandoned in the desert only helps to prolong the inevitable deterioration. To properly store a vehicle in the desert, you should use an airtight blowup pod to keep the moisture and sand out of your car. This is even true when you're parking in your garage.
15 Ferrari Soft-Top Convertible Spider
The owner of this red Ferrari Spider with a soft black convertible left his car at the same place that the Lamborghini was left. Both are deserted at the back of a used-car market. Many of the cars are there because they're in need of repair. The owners of these vehicles left them there before fleeing their debts. The owner of the repair shop will hold them until the bank comes to pick them up.
When vehicle owners or debtors fall behind on their accounts, the bank first sends a notice informing them that the payment is late. Like lenders in the United States and other countries around the world, the bank then accelerates the loan and demands payment in full.
14 Ferrari Enzo
The red Ferrari Enzo shown is perhaps the most well-known car to be dumped in Dubai. It's highly sought after by car collectors who have tight-knit communities that share information about prized vehicles like this. The owner left it at the airport, and when news got out, people wanted to know how they could get their hands on the rare car. However, the latest reports on the vehicle said that it's caught up in a legal battle. Until the case is cleared, the Enzo won't be auctioned off.
It's unclear what happened in the legal battle. Hopefully, the owner of this supercar was able to reach an arrangement with his lender and got his car back. There are only 350 of them in the world, and with a price tag of more than $650,000, I know the owner must be sick from leaving it in the desert to die.
13 Black Mercedes CL550
Sadly, here's another Mercedes left in the parking lot of an airport in Dubai. The black CL550 looks pretty new under the layer of dirt covering the exterior. Yet, people scribbled messages in the sand covering the car. The owners likely plan to take an extended vacation before coming back and attempting to make things right with their loan.
The UAE warns that travelers coming back to the region should make sure any debts are cleared prior to arriving in the country even if you're only catching a connecting flight and don't plan to leave the airport. Otherwise, there's a strong possibility that the Dubai police will detain you upon arrival. So, to avoid that, authorities in Dubai suggest making arrangements to pay debts off prior to arriving in the UAE to avoid any inconveniences.
12 Purple Lamborghini Gallardo
The unique color of this Gallardo catches your eye even as the car is under a layer of sand. Other popular colors for the Gallardo include black, yellow, lime green, red, orange, and white, and it doesn't matter which color you choose; they all look great from any angle. The 5.2-liter V10 engine produces approximately 500 horsepower.
In recent years, Gallardos haven't been as popular as they once were thanks to the introduction of the Aventador. However, the Lamborghini Gallardo is the lightest of the Lambo models at 2,954 lbs. The automaker accomplished this by using carbon fiber on the vehicle's exterior interior. Plus, the Gallardo at just $166,000 is, to many, more attractive than the $376,000 Aventador. Even with the lower price, I'm sure it's still painful to leave your Lambo on the side of the road.
11 White Audi A8
This is yet another beautiful car left at the airport in Dubai. The Audi A8 has a starting MSRP of $82,500. For that price, it comes nicely equipped with a ton of features to make the ride safe and enjoyable. There are several different engine models to choose from when purchasing an Audi A8. Buyers can choose between the 3.0-liter V6 or the 4.0-liter V8, and both come with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, which makes the drive versatile and fun.
The exterior of this white A8 appears to be in excellent condition; however, with the sunroof up, there's no telling what the inside of the vehicle is like. It's probably not pretty inside given the lack of protection from the extreme elements. Hopefully, the new owner will be able to clean it up and take better care of it.
10 Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500
The Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 is an iconic modern American muscle car. Personally, I prefer more exotic cars, but people from all around the world love this car. It comes specially equipped with a powerful supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine, which produces an impressive 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. This gives it the ability to go from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds.
At under $45,000, there's not a lot of competition. Other vehicles with similar specs cost over $100,000 or more. The great price for this Mustang didn't stop the owner from abandoning it in this commercial area in Dubai, though, like so many other vehicles have been. It makes you wonder if the owner is a local from Dubai who always had dreams of owning his own American muscle car.
9 Black Cadillac Escalade SUV
A black Cadillac Escalade is left in an airport parking lot in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The vehicle is one of many left in airport parking garages by people who fell behind on their monthly payments. At one time, not too long after the World financial crisis, this became a huge problem.
The luxury vehicles were seen all over the place and often blocked roadways in both residential and business districts. At one time, there were so many of these vehicles in heavily populated areas and in airport parking garages that the cars began causing major traffic congestion, making it difficult for people to get around the city. At that time, many locals began blaming "irresponsible" expats for the major problem facing the country.
8 Nissan Skyline R34 GTR
The Nissan Skyline R34 GTR is highly sought after by car enthusiasts around the world. Produced from 1999 to 2002, the R34 has the same engine as its predecessor, the R33, with a price tag of 89,500 USD.
However, the Japanese automaker added a ceramic turbo-charger and improved the camshafts and timing of the engine. So, the fifth generation GTR produces 320 horsepower, 40 more horsepower than advertised because the Japanese auto industry made an agreement not to produce vehicles with more than 280 horsepower after pressure regarding fatal high-speed accidents.
The R34 is also the first GTR to feature an LCD screen that gives information about the vehicle and the engine. The 6-speed all-wheel-drive car has excellent traction and offers a thrilling ride.
7 Range Rover AWD Land Rover Sport
Range Rovers, BMWs, Audis, and other luxury cars fill the salvage and impound lots of Dubai. However, Range Rovers are more than just a status symbol in Dubai. They're excellent vehicles for the desert conditions. Range Rovers are actually some of the best vehicles for traveling in the area because they offer luxury and utility.
This Land Rover is the Sport edition. This means that, in addition to being a 4x4, this SUV has a 5.0-liter V8 supercharged engine capable of producing 375 horsepower. The Land Rover is one of the most well-equipped vehicles for residents in Dubai, and while the first owner couldn't hold on to it, it will make a great vehicle for the buyer, who's sure to get a much better deal on the SUV.
Maseratis aren't your everyday car, even in luxurious Dubai. So, this vehicle's owner must've been sick from ditching it. However, leaving the supercar behind is nowhere near as painful as sitting behind bars with nothing to do but to think of the car, the home, and the former life you lost.
I have to be honest - I, too, would flee the country if that were my fate. Plus, many of these people were blindsided by failing economies around the world. Can you imagine being an expat and receiving a call from your employer telling you that you no longer have a job? That's the situation so many expats found themselves in. So, for many of the people from around the world working in Dubai, this was the only logical choice.
5 White Porsche Boxster Owned by a Project Manager
Like so many people living in Dubai, Andy Blair found himself in a bad situation in 2009 when he received a call he wasn't expecting. His boss broke the news to him - he no longer had a job. He knew he needed to do something quickly or he, too, would face the fate of so many others. So, he pulled over and used a permanent marker he had in his car to scrawl a message on the back of his car, using it as a rolling billboard.
The tactic actually worked for Blair, who received dozens of calls making local and international job offers. His message was also shared online, and he began receiving media attention, which further spread his message, and soon, he was able to land another job to pay for his Porsche. Blair's quick thinking and bold action likely saved his car and prevented him from going to jail.
4 Mercedes CLS 63 AMG
The Mercedes CLS 63 AMG is large but quick for its size. The AMG kit on this silver Mercedes adds an attractive body kit, performance self-adaptive air suspension, better handling, and increased performance. The 4-door sedan has a 6.2-liter V8 gas-powered engine with a 7-speed shiftable automatic transmission.
The interior of the CLS 63 is just as lovely as the ride. The air-cooled plush leather seats and powered window shades on the rear windows are perfect for the sweltering days in the desert. Plus, there's navigation and a wonderful sound system, so you can enjoy your favorite music while running your errands. However, none of this comes cheap. A new top-of-the-line CLS 63 with the AMG package starts at $108,900 MSRP. However, someone likely picked this one up for a great deal when police sold it at an auction.
3 Rolls-Royce Left at the Airport
Engineer Henry Royce and car-dealership owner Charles Rolls partnered to create the Rolls-Royce company. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Rolls-Royce has been a symbol of success. The Rolls-Royce is one of the most expensive vehicles on the market; however, very rarely do drivers drive their own Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce owners typically hire a driver to drive the high-end luxury car.
The owner of this Rolls-Royce left it in the parking lot of the airport upon leaving Dubai. The owner likely didn't expect to come back to the UAE. However, many people are finding that they do want to come back to the United Arab Emirates now that the economy is getting better.
2 Mercedes Limousine
Even limos and wealthy families with drivers aren't safe. The financial crisis hit everyone, causing people who never faced financial hardships to default on loans. The crisis also affected drivers. Fewer people coming to Dubai to visit meant there was less money for drivers and people in tourist industries, too.
The owner of this limo apparently felt he had no choice but to leave it here. This is just one of the thousands of vehicles left behind. The situation is getting better; however, it's still a major problem in Dubai. In January of 2016, the police impounded 456 vehicles that were abandoned for extended periods in a commercial district.
1 Jaguar XK8
Closing out my list is the Jaguar XK8. The XK8 is more of a luxury car for cruising than a sports car. It looks good, but it's not all that fast with just 290 horsepower produced from the 4.0-liter engine. The car does carry some cool features, like speed-sensitive adaptive steering and a sport-tuned suspension. So, driving the XK8 is a lot of fun.
If the owner of this vehicle wants to come back to the UAE, he needs to make arrangements with his creditors. Everything must be in writing, and the party must make sure the arrest warrants are lifted by calling the police department or by hiring an attorney in the UAE to assist with such matters. The UAE welcomes back those who left during the time of financial difficulty. However, the UAE remains firm in the country's view on debt and will continue to punish anyone who falls behind on payments.
Sources: Business Insider; Car and Driver; and Construction Week Online