RAK car painters cash in on annual display of patriotism

Hundreds of drivers make the journey north from all over the UAE for personalised tributes to the nation's founding.

Ali Abdullatef of Abu Dhabi watches as an Emirates Arts employee paints his car for the National Day celebrations in Ras al Khaimah.
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RAS AL KHAIMAH // Hundreds of enthusiasts from across the UAE have travelled in convoys to RAK to get their cars custom painted before National Day celebrations.

RAK painters earned a reputation for using cars as canvases for patriotic pride at celebrations across the country last year.

Half a dozen art studios offer an affordable alternative to costly design work elsewhere, which has lured hundreds down Emirates Road.

It is about 80 per cent cheaper to have a car hand-painted in RAK than to have it covered with patriotic design transfers, or decals, in other cities.

Sultan Ahmed, 18, who came with a convoy of four cars and seven friends from Sharjah, said: "In Sharjah we don't have like this, we have pictures only. When I finish this car, I will go back and bring another."

Cars bearing the licence plates of the seven emirates clogged the main street of Old RAK last night. Some patriots made a holiday of it and came to see family. Others had never visited the northern emirate before and made a 10-hour round trip.

The national migration has been a lifeline for artists who thought they would lose business when National Day celebrations were cancelled in RAK for the mourning period of the late Ruler, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed. The studios expect to earn about Dh20,000 each this week, more than two months income.

"About 40 per cent of our customers are coming from outside," said Mohammed Shafik, who comes from Sri Lanka.

"They all come here because the artists here are very good and we are professionals," Mr Shafik said, as he watched a colleague stand on a car bonnet to paint its roof in green-and-red leopard spots.

The men gave other reasons for coming. "My country," said Khalid al Hammadi, 19, who came from Dubai with eight friends.

"No, we came for the discount," said his friend Khalid Ali, 19. "It's Dh1,200 to decorate my car in Abu Dhabi. It's Dh400 here."

Others came to express themselves. Ibrahim al Hammadi, 22, came with five friends from Abu Dhabi with a plan for a heart-covered Lexus 400. "It's my country, it's my heart," he said.