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28 February 2024

Park the Ferrari... 3-wheeler rickshaws driving Emirati youngsters tuk-tuk style

By V M Sathish

Tuk-tuks, a popular mode of transport in South and South East Asian countries, have found favour with a group of Emirati youth who enjoy driving around Dubai in these cute three-wheeled vehicles.

Jamal Al Salem, a young entrepreneur, has been driving a tuk-tuk (so called because of the sound of its engine) and has started a business in the three wheelers which are also known as auto rickshaws in the Indian sub-continent.

“We have been fascinated by the tuk-tuk which is not widely used in the UAE. I have imported four tuk-tuks from Pakistan. Now we have also started a business in tuk-tuks. These three-wheelers are used in birthday parties and other special occasions and even during National Day celebrations,” says Jamal.

“Wherever we go, it is well received as another source of fun for a party or special occasion,” he added. “Emirati youth, who are fond of quad bikes, also like to drive the tuk-tuk,” said Jamal.

The three-wheeled vehicles are specially painted and decorated with colourful lights to suit special occasions.  Jamal has formed the Tuk Tuk Company to provide auto rickshaws for special occasions like birthday parties and other celebrations.

One of the tuk-tuks with Jamal is adorned with a picture of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.  The second one, painted white and red, is named ‘Fazza’, with a colourful picture of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,  Crown Prince of Dubai.

“We are paid for the use of tuk-tuks in schools, birthday parties and other special occasions,” he added. “The presence of a tuk-tuk adds fun to a special event and Emirati youth love it.”

Tuk-tuks  are sometimes spotted at night, especially on Jumeira Road, Al Wasl Road and other city arteries.  On New Year’s Eve 2013, auto rickshaws driven by Emirati youngsters were seen on these roads. Tuk-tuks were in demand during National Day celebrations too.

“These tuk-tuks come regularly to our petrol station. Sometimes we see four of them coming in a group to fill petrol,” said a petrol station attendant near Latifa Hospital, Dubai.

“One of the four tuk-tuks is a VIP vehicle and I am proud to have named it after the Crown Prince of Dubai. People like to pose for photograph in front of ‘Fazza’ which carries a cute picture of Sheikh Hamdan,” says Jamal.

Recently, a tuk-tuk was spotted in Sharjah when Alexander Saxon and Kevan Pulfrey  arrived from London in the emirate in a three-wheeler. They are aiming to drive through 38 countries in four continents in a tuk-tuk.

A tuk-tuk has a 650cc engine and can run up to 70kmph. It is a more affordable means of transport in South and South East Asian countries.

Indian auto rickshaw manufacturers are exploring the possibility of introducing the tuk tuk as a cheaper mode of transport in the UAE.

Tuk-tuks are also used in the Global Village during the Dubai Shopping Festival. There are also some youtube videos showing young Emiratis driving the three-wheelers which are popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, the Philippines and some other Asian countries.  In the Middle East, Egypt has a large number of tuktuks.