The ‘Arab Drift’

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

A strange new phenomenon is taking Saudi Arabia by storm! Some say it is a new extreme sport. Others say it is nothing more than an exciting, yet dangerous, pastime that helps adrenaline junkies reach the depths of a bigger high and break away from what they perceive to be mundane living. Still others claim it is simply rich boys indulging in their ‘deadly’ toys. No matter what anyone’s opinion is, there is something very compelling about the ‘Arab Drift’. It’s a paradox of both wanting to turn your head away in fear and keeping your eyes wide open so you don’t miss a minute of it all!

Defining this remarkable event is not hard. The ‘Arab Drift’ is basically a solo drag race performed in front of an eager audience. The basic requirements are simple. All you need are a car, a driver and a long stretch of barren road preferably near fine sand so that the surface of the pavement is slippery. The driver then fills his car with daredevil passengers and pumps his engine. As he begins to pick up speed, he uses the steering wheel to quickly weave the car on the road from left to right and back in an endless succession of motion. The result, midway towards the end of the road, is that the car begins to spin in a complete 360-degree unstoppable tornado controlled only by screeching tires until it abruptly skids to a stop at the end in plumes of desert dust.

The capital, and the actual birthplace, of the Arab Drift is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The reason being is because the combination of flawless roadways and fine desert sand, which makes the drifter feel like he is driving on water rather than asphalt, is a rare commodity found only in the oil rich Kingdom. An Arab blogger named Mo says, “In Saudi, you only need to push on the gas a little and your wheels will be spinning like there is no tomorrow! It feels like driving on wet road but its not wet. If you actually try doing the same stunt on a normal road like the ones in Kuwait you will flip from 80 kmph and drifters are doing at least 180 kmph!”

Drifting is gaining popularity as it spreads all over the internet via social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube. There is a cult following for many drifters, who have earned such titles as ‘The Drift King’ or ‘Drift Master’ from their outrageous drifting antics. However, despite all the glory from enthusiasts, drifting is quickly becoming a public safety hazard and a nuisance for Saudi authorities. There have been several drifting accidents which have resulted in fatalities over the years. The most infamous drifting accident occurred in Riyadh in 2005 when a Navy officer decided to try his hand at performing the Arab Drift. He rented a Honda Accord and allowed 4 young boys to ride with him at a speed of 120kmph. The officer crashed and 3 of his passengers were killed. He was found guilty of negligence and sentenced to death by a Jeddah court.

The Saudi government adopted the tougher law this past Spring to deter Arab drifting and joyriding. Previsouly, fatalities would have been classified as “accidental” but now they are classified as “criminal negligence” which carries a much heftier punishment than the prior. Government officials hope that such a serious punishment will deter future Arab drifters from setting foot, or tire for that matter, on Saudi roads with the intention of performing daredevil stunts.



Accidents–warning–this video shows people who really get hurt–painful to watch.


2 wheels

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