The UAE's collectors: trainers worth $2 million in a Burj Khalifa penthouse

Featuring rare Yeezys and Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s, Mohamed Al Safar's shoe collection is one of the biggest in the region

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A childhood obsession with self-expression has turned Bahraini collector Mohamed Al Safar into one of the biggest rare trainer collectors in the region. His haul of more than 2,500 covetable shoes, some of which are proudly displayed in special transparent boxes in the living room of his Burj Khalifa penthouse, is currently valued at more than $2 million.

Al Safar, 32, is the director of his family-owned Al Safar Group, which has interests in education, hospitality, property and food retail, and has its headquarters in Bahrain. He splits his time between the US, the UAE and Bahrain. He says his passion for shoes began in school, where everyone was required to wear uniforms, but were allowed to wear footwear of their choice.

“I used to always wear the flashiest and craziest-looking shoes that no one wore to school and I really enjoyed people’s reactions to what I rocked,” he says.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 11 AUGUST 2020. 
Mohamed Al Safar, Bahrainin sneaker collector in his penthouse in Burj Khalifa
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Al Safar’s Dubai apartment is also filled with other rare collectibles, mostly from the fashion world. Holding pride of place is a monogrammed 400-kilogram, 317-centimetre-long oversized park bench created by late Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh for the maison’s spring/summer 2020 runway presentation in Paris in 2019.

But his first love, he says, is shoes. And the ones in Dubai make up only a third of his total collection, with the rest homed in his apartment in California. The father-of-two says he’s not interested in collecting just any trainers, only the rarest ones.

His latest acquisition is from a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Nike that was overseen by Abloh and that has become highly covetable following his untimely death last year.

Virgil Abloh was one of the most creative designers ever,” Al Safar says. “Louis Vuitton released nine different colours of Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s and I’m lucky to have all of them in the collection.” On popular sneaker marketplace StockX, Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s are now going for as much as $6,000.

One thing Al Safar is still itching to get his hands on is a pair of Jordan 4 Eminem Encore, released to celebrate the rapper’s album of the same name in 2004. One website calls them “the rarest Jordan 4s to date”, and StockX currently has the pair listed at $24,000. “That’s the pair I’m dying to get,” Al Safar says. “Eminem is one of my favourite rappers of all time and I need this shoe to complete his Jordan set.”

For aspiring shoe collectors, his advice is to “buy what you like".

“And if you miss out on a release, don’t stress about it. There are many more releases to come.”

Updated: November 15, 2022, 3:21 AM
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