What is there to do for the bored and restless young twenty something year old testosterone driven male, still very much reliant on a family support system in a religiously minded conservative gulf nation? Hmmm…sometimes I wonder this myself. Although much can be said of the 15 to 25 year old demographic, it is much more influential than you might think and has caught the eye of numerous marketers. In fact, the consumption ratings of this group practically run the media industry. So yes, not only is this group a hungry bunch, they are also inclined to brash behavior (particularly the male portion). I hate to make large generalizations, but here I go…In the US, they might be seen frequenting a less wholesome establishment, searching for some self-discovery while waiting for that day when they are ready to move on with their life, pursuing more refined pastimes.
Here in Oman, the reins are held a little tighter, so that the whole phase of sexual exploration is thrown out of the equation. In this case one must look for another outlet for angst, some other outlet to release every other inhibition in an all-consuming rapture. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce cars. Yes, cars of all types are a reverie for young men here. In the city, in the most “wasta” of families, that very well could mean a Lamborghini. However for the most part, as long as there are rubber wheels and a motor, you are good to go.
*note all photos featured are courtesy of Getty images
Even on the warmest of evenings, merely walk outside to the sticky dimly lit street, and you will find groups of young boys and men out with some Dettol and an old cloth. They will be polishing up their cars for hours, sometimes in total silence, and sometimes with the thump of percussion based Arabic pop. I have seen it all.
Oman ranks the third highest in the Eastern Mediterranean region in traffic related deaths according to WHO data. Considering its small size, minimal crime rate, tight alcohol and drug restrictions, and a 19-year-old driving limit, one would think the accident and fatality rate would be lower. The fact that the impact of car accidents is so large is very concerning and may be related to the driving culture taking on a level of machismo not seen as much elsewhere.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my host mom discussing the effectiveness of a driving limit. I am planning to get my permit when I return to the US this summer. She was taken aghast, a little surprised to say the least. Isn’t that quite young, she asked. Here, the “al shabab” (the youth) materialize all sorts of road hazards from drag racing to other tricks that frankly I’ve only witnessed in a fast paced Brad Pitt block buster. I had to think about it for a minute. Well yes, teenagers surely get into all sorts of trouble back home. However, it never really extends to driving in this particular manner. Our biggest issue is keeping kids in a physically conscious state behind the wheel, away from alcohol and drugs, which itself is a huge problem. However, there is not much conscious speeding. Drag racing is frowned upon. Why else do you think there was so much enthusiasm to deport Bieber back to Canada after his recent stint in Miami?
Meanwhile, on TV, the number of car companies advertising rugged looking Arab men racing through Dubai in luxury cars seems to expand regularly.