This was my 3rd time to the UAE since first traveling there with my friend Grant George of Funco in 2012. Of all the trips I take and all the places I travel nothing draws interest from people more than when I tell them I am headed to Dubai. Its often the first thing people ask me when I meet them for the first time, “so how was Dubai?”. My answer is always, “it’s awesome..” because it is!
When I came home after my first trip to the UAE I was bursting with excitement to tell anyone who would listen about the people and culture of the UAE. Its odd to think, but outside of Canada and Mexico the UAE is the only other country I have been too. Of course my travels take me to every part of the US, but this trip is special not just for me personally but for me as an ambassador of off-road. My first trip was all about the experience but since being able to go back with Polaris for the Camp RZR UAE events the past 2 years, my goal with every trip has shifted. It is now to share more and learn more about who they are and hopefully teach them more about who we are. Here we have preconceived thoughts about the middle east. Here many, not all, tend to group Arab people in with being bad or dangerous. Its understandable because thats what is portrayed in the nightly news and in our society. The same stereotypes towards us are often made by them as well, we are all crazy and wild cowboys who hate Muslims. It goes back and forth. But then you travel there, you meet the people, you travel to their homes, you learn more about their culture, and soon you realize they are no different then us and we are no different then them. It seems cliche, but we are all the same despite our up bringing and despite where we call home or to which God we pray too. At the end of the day we all want whats best for our children, we all want to live happy and prosperous lives and we all just want to have a good time while we are here on this amazing planet. Most importantly we all want peace, and we all unite in our despise of the extremist terrorists who give Arab people a bad name and who cause the people of the world so much grief.
I don’t mean to get too deep, I know most want to just read about the experience and check out the cool photos. I feel an obligation to share these things in hopes of breaking down the stereotypes, its the posts I see on Facebook and elsewhere by those I know about killing anyone who believes in Islam, or turning the middle east into a bombing range. I feel not only empowered but also obligated to continue to preach the gospel of how solid and amazing the people and culture are of the UAE. I have been to my own relatives homes who don’t welcome me as deeply as the people there do. From the moment we stepped off the plane our friends from the BoomerTeam were there to ensure we were safe and sound. They were there to greet us and to take us to our hotel, offer us dinner and ensure our well being. They don’t do this because the UAE or Dubai is dangerous, in fact, it has one of the lowest crime rates in all of the world and is one of , if not the safest country in the world. They do this because it is their culture, it is who they are, they are Bedouin and because of that they want nothing more than to make sure those they care about and their guests are well taken care of. The hospitality and genuine concern of our well being never ceases as long as we are in their country. Day and night they ask or contact us to make sure we have all we need, that everything is good and if there is anything else then can do for us. Never once do they try to push their beliefs, religion or even bring up politics. Never once do I feel like we are only a short distance away from countries who do hate and want to cause harm to us. I honestly can say now that when I am in the UAE I feel just as much at home there as I do here, minus the food of course and the fact that 7pm there is 7am here, that never gets easy.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things that are different. The American culture and that of the UAE is very different in many ways. Everything from clothing to food, daily routines to how they involve the women and children in their lives. All of it is very different to the way we live here and to the ways that we are accustomed too. But to me, thats what makes the trip cool. I can tell you, the one thing we all have in common is toys and our love for playing both off-road and in life in general. The UAE I believe is the second richest country per capita next to neighboring Qatar. There is no shortage of money in the UAE and thats due to their amazing government structure and their commitment to taking care of fellow Emirates. Education is key and most all I have met carry college degrees, work in government or own businesses. Everyone seems to hold some level of success and because of that are able to afford finer things. Our friends, while many have the extravagant homes and cars, tend to focus their attention on off-road. Winter for them means dune season and like us here in southwest, its all they can think of once the weather cools off. One thing is for sure, almost always the first time you meet someone they ask “so what do you think of our country?” or “is everything ok, can I do anything?” its simply amazing. They genuinely care and they genuinely want to make sure you are having a good time. At times its almost more than one can handle. Sometimes I feel like I need a sign on me that says “I am ok, everything is wonderful, no I am not hungry, please no more coffee, and yes I love your RZR!”.
The UAE is a growing market, but its not as big as one might think. In fact, the state of New Mexico sells about the same amount of RZRs as the UAE does. Thats still a significant number, but what makes that number even more impressive is that Polaris as a company sees the UAE and its people and say, “lets do something to say thank you!”. Here in the US, Polaris hosts our now annual Camp RZR Glamis event. In 2014 they hosted the first ever Camp RZR East event in TN. And for the second year now have hosted Camp RZR UAE in Dubai. While the event in Dubai is certainly not like the events here are in terms of size, the event there truly is a way for Polaris to reach out, meet, learn and show thanks to their Emirate customers. Its a different culture and Polaris knows that, so they use Camp RZR as a way to connect with their consumers and learn what they desire from Polaris as a brand. Its an event that benefits both sides, and for us, we get to come along as guests and enjoy the ride.
Traveling with RJ Anderson is always fun. He and I have spent a lot of time on the road, away from home and almost always doing fun and exciting things. RJ has become a star through his successful racing career and of course through our viral campaign known simply as XP1K. Polaris brings us along to help boost excitement for the event, but it also allows the locals to meet these guys they see on TV or on YouTube. Its crazy how much they follow all that we do, and when they see RJ its like meeting a rockstar for them. They all want him to see their RZR, sit in it, drive it, ride with them, please take a photo or sign an autograph. I get a little of that too, I am not quite comfortable with the admiration many show me, but its something I can handle and certainly appreciate. When in the presence of many, you feel like a trophy. They want to appreciate you and they want to show you off to their friends. They make you feel like a celebrity and that makes going their really fun for us. I really love meeting new fans and people who appreciate what we do here at UTVUnderground.com. I know RJ feels the same way. My favorite is meeting the kids and spending time with the younger generation. They are always so cool and you can see, just like kids here, they are just stoked on life.
Polaris asked RJ, Andrew from ProLine Wraps who came as a guest to the BoomerTeam, and I to host and judge the Camp RZR UAE Show & Shine competition. Last year I think the people were sort of just trying to see what a Show & Shine was all about. We brought this concept to Camp RZR in Glamis in year one, and since then the Show & Shine has turned into one of the event highlights. The same happened this year in year two in Dubai. This year the RZRs came out in full force, many built right there in the UAE and of course a few which made there way from the states. The turnout was phenomenal with the big win going to our friend Alilootah of Bullet Workshop who built an insane 4 seat converted XP1000 with a turbo Z1 engine and Glazzgraft body kit. Our friends at the BoomerTeam took home the group award as they entered 14 custom RZRs that all share the same theme. They went all out! Best Paint & Graphics went to a man by the name of Hadi who built a RZR XP1K that sported a blue paint scheme that just knocked our socks off. What made it special was that everything was paint, no powder-coat and the Arabic themed calligraphy designs all had a story. They represented different parts of the desert, places Hadi loves to ride. It was a high end paint scheme with a story and we just fell in love with it. Lastly, we came together to pick a judges award which we gave to this awesome Polaris Ace 570 build by DuneBike in Dubai. It is the first ever long traveled front a-arm Ace we have ever seen. It looked awesome and I think it will inspire people all over the world to build one for themselves. The Show & Shine was fantastic and I can only imagine whats in store for year 3.
The people are the highlight for sure, the event is always exciting and fun, but we really look forward to one thing when we travel to the UAE and thats the riding. Off-road is our common thread, its why we are there and its what has brought me to the UAE now 3 times. So its the riding that we most look forward to doing and this year was no different. We didn’t ride as much as we hoped, we rarely do, but the riding we did was fun, fast and exhilarating. Of course RJ and I jumped into our waiting Polaris RZR XP1Ks and took to the dunes like mad men. We have a pressure to live up to the world as 2 of the most experienced UTV drivers so he and I waste no time putting our skills on the line. Once settled into a groove we rip and turn, slide and jump everywhere and anywhere we can. For me its a release. For those hours I am driving there is nothing else in the world I care about other than whats on the other side of the next dune. Its life altering, riding in a foreign land with camels in the distance, traversing dunes that seem to go on forever. The only thing that matters is the sand, the sound and the machine. Its what I live for, its why I am here writing this story. When you really strip everything down, why UTVUnderground.com exists, why we support this sport, why Polaris respects us, why the people from around the world welcome us, when you break it all down its the riding. The riding is why UTVUnderground.com exists. Its not about the race or the event or the machines or even the people. Its about that moment when you push the throttle, feel the acceleration, get the rush, and live the thrill. Thats why this is all happening, that is how powerful off-road is. Riding a RZR can change your life, it can shape who you become and it can take you places beyond your wildest dreams. Sounds crazy right? But its true, we live it.
On behalf of RJ, Andrew, myself and Polaris I want to say thank you to the people of Dubai, the UAE and our friends who include the BoomerTeam, SSE, Dubai RZR Team and everyone else who welcomes us as family. You make this trip the highlight of my year and I truly can’t wait to return. In addition, I can’t thank Polaris enough for giving us this experience again. The things Polaris has done to help us grow this sport and our site is just beyond words. When people ask me, why do you have so much Polaris content on your site, I say its simple. They sell the most machines so naturally there is more RZR content available, but more importantly they get it. They live this sport like we live this sport, full throttle! Thank you Polaris and thank you everyone who made this trip another lifelong experience.
Until next time….
P.S. I want to give a special thank you to our good friend and travel partner Jason DiFuccia of Polaris. Jason works so hard to glue all of this stuff together for us and not only is he our friend and peer, he is also a fantastic photographer who came to Camp RZR with us to work with us not only as the Polaris representative from the US but also as our photographer!! So thank you for all of the fantastic photos and especially the good times!! Thank you Jason! #NinjaBang
Photos by: Jason DiFuccia & NomadUAE for UTVUnderground.com