DUBAI // Late at night in the quiet neighbourhood of Rashidiya, a group of young Emirati men gather at the cafeteria outside Nad Shamma Park.
Sitting in modified cars and 4x4s waiting for their food to arrive, they show off to each other by revving their engines. The roaring noise, amplified through big, specially designed exhausts, echoes around the streets and villas.
This group of friends, who do not wish to be identified by their full names, take great pride in being able to take a standard car and give it the extra power and performance to rule the road.
“It is just for fun, we are young and just joking around,” said 20-year-old Abdulla. “We don’t come from very rich families, you won’t see us driving expensive sports cars. But what we can do is take a normal car and make it perform like a supercar.
“Most of us, as soon as we get our driving licence, we get a used Nissan Patrol. They are very versatile vehicles and easy to modify. I think the first thing everyone does is make the car sound louder and more intimidating.”
For Hamoud, 21, nothing beats the feeling of “overtaking a rich kid in a Ferrari and putting him to shame with a Nissan”.
However, for all their bravado, the friends say their intention is not to cause anyone any harm or disturb residents.
“We don’t mean any harm by it, we are just trying to have fun,” said Saif, 19. “In winter we take the cars out to the desert and challenge each other. I don’t see the harm.”
For residents, such as 57-year-old Humaid Al Suwaidi, the noise from these modified cars is a constant nuisance.
“It is non-stop, all night,” said the retired Armed Forces officer. “Every time one of these kids drives by they wake up the whole street, because they are always racing and showing off.
“My neighbour has a baby and he and his wife are suffering with these noisy cars. We’ve called the police but that doesn’t stop them.”
The noise is so loud, said Mr Al Suwaidi, that it can he heard throughout his house.
“It doesn’t matter if your doors and windows are shut, the noise comes through the walls and floor. I used to like to sit in my garden and relax, now it just aggravates me. I’ve managed to give them a piece of my mind, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”
Dubai Police said it was taking residents’ complaints seriously and was on the lookout for cars that had been modified.
“Vehicles modified to be louder are in violation of the law, not just those with engine modifications but even those blasting loud music,” said Col Saif Al Mazroui, acting director of the traffic department at Dubai Police.
Offenders face a Dh500 fine and having their vehicle impounded for a month, said Col Al Mazroui.
“After the impound period, the car will have to be towed to a mechanic and the modifications removed. The owner must submit a report from the Roads and Transport Authority certifying that the modifications have been removed and the vehicle is road legal, before we can reactivate his traffic file.”
He admitted that Rashidiya had a problem with loud vehicles. “Thankfully, we have seen that such violations are declining over the past few years. Residents who wish to complain can contact their local police station, a patrol will be sent to the area to investigate,” Col Al Mazroui said.
But for Mr Al Suwaidi, more needs to be done to return peace and quiet to his neighbourhood. “They should impose stricter rules ... not just impound the vehicle, suspend the driving licence too, and hand out a hefty fine as well, make them think twice.
“Yes they have to remove the modifications, but as soon as they get the car back they go and put the modifications back on again,” said Mr Al Suwaidi.
Col Al Mazroui said the law applied only to modified vehicles. “Vehicles that come from the dealer with loud engines, sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini, are not in violation of the law.”
He said that garages that make the modifications were also not in breach of the law. “These garages have the right, as per their business licence, to modify vehicles. However, these vehicles are then deemed not to be road legal and are used in sporting events and off-roading, they must be towed to the location, not driven.
“Everyone knows that this is almost exclusive to young drivers,” Col Al Mazroui said. “I urge parents to be more aware of their children’s activities and driving habits. Such modifications can cause the vehicle to be dangerously overpowered and, especially in the hands of young and inexperienced drivers, can risk the lives of everyone on the road.”