Arabs And License Plates [UPDATED]

I’ve always wondered about this infatuation we have with license plate numbers. I mean it’s one thing to pay for specialty or vanity plates that have customized words/names, but the idea of paying thousands for just a pretty average number is kind of crazy. It’s been less than a year since license plates were changed in Jordan and people are still paying upwards of 10,000JDs for a couple of less-than-extraordinary numbers. Fortunately, we’re not as wealthy or as extravagant as the folks in the UAE.

The number ‘1’ car licence could fetch as much as $20 million when it goes under the hammer at auction in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Bidding for the Abu Dhabi plate is expect to be fierce, and many are predicting the auction will smash the record for the most expensive plate in the world.

Abu Dhabi businessman Talal Khouri holds the current record after paying 25.2 million dirhams ($6.86 million) for the number ‘5’ licence plate in May last year. He also paid 11 million dirhams for the number ‘7’ plate. Khouri has said he will also take part in Saturday’s auction and is willing to splash out $15-$20 million to get his hands on the coveted number ‘1’ plate, according to broadcaster CNN.

If, as expected, the auction sets a new record, the UAE will hold the seven most expensive plates in the world. [source]

UPDATED: An Emirati businessman broke all records for the world’s most expensive number plate on Saturday, paying 52.2 million dirhams ($14.5 million) for plate number ‘1’ at an Abu Dhabi auction. [source]


  • I have a hard time not being sickened by the ultimate waste of money spent on such frivolous things. When I think about all of the good that could be done with “license plate money”, it makes me want to kick one of these rich guys in the gonads.

  • when talal khouri who is work billions and billions of dirhams in wealth decides to buy a plate number for whats not even merely 5 % of his money, he can do as he pleases! not to mention that money went 100% to charity!

    i like a neat number on my car, but wont pay all my money on it, if it comes 7ayyaha allah, if not mish darouri 😀

  • Just out of curiosity, Nas, what do you make of the showmanship/materialism in the Gulf, or even in wealthier parts of Jordan? It always strikes me that one can walk through nice neighborhoods in Manhattan (or any other American city) where very successful people live and see not a brand new Aston-Martin with a designer plate parked in front of the house, but a 1997 Toyota Corolla–and perhaps its owner wandering outside to fetch a newspaper in sweatpants from Target. I remember being totally blown away by one of my first visits to Abdoun, when I saw some sort of SUV with the Gucci decal print (the one usually reserved for handbags) plastered all over the damn car. In some ways, I feel like we Americans maybe neglect our image too much, but these guys take it to an entirely different level. Their showmanship goes way past putting on a “bella figura.” I wonder sometimes why they do it.

  • To be honest, this is just a symptom of a much deeper problem: the vast inequalities of wealth in the Middle East, but especially in the Gulf.

    On an individual level, ten, twenty, thirty million dollars isn’t that much to these guys. They’re just doing what they’ve done pretty much their whole lives: get what they want. Money is just a number. They have whole Wealth Management teams to take care of actually sorting things out.

    If I were that rich, sure, I’d buy it. Why not? I can easily afford it, there’s an odd sort of prestige to it, and it’d probably make me feel good, too.

    Fix the broader, deeper problem and people actually spending that much would evaporate.

  • Mais je pense que je doives le donner ‘le benefit du doute’…alors:

    As far as the division of goods goes this is the finest class(2nd class) of ‘doing good’, because this is the class that one can love because of the task itself supplies the buyer with a higher status and because of the result of doing the good is that those in need of it will receive the charity. Two birds with one stone.

    PS: Do any of you know who has number the one plate any how?

  • To: Publicfacing

    “On an individual level, ten, twenty, thirty million dollars isn’t that much to these guys.”

    – They can’t be that loaded can they? If this is the case you are absolutely right about the obscenely wide class separations there. How can they fix something like that? Which raises a question; what sort of law is in place to ensure that the lower classes there have knowledge of their relationship to the law and are able to elect people (of influence) from their classes to give them more representation and the government and perhaps somewhat ease this gap’s effects on their ‘quality of life’? (Kind of the equivalent to Rome’s “Law of the Twelve Tables”-650B.C.)

  • Jessica, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoom has the number 1 plate. But that’s just expected, right? For the record, I only know he has the number 1 plate because I actually saw him driving his 4wd Mercedes Benz on the lane next to mine on Shk. Zayed road a while back. There was no one in the car with him and he was wearing a baseball cap. I gotta say, he looked very comfortable in his skin and like he was really enjoying himself.

    But yeah, I never got all the hype for a freaking digit. And even for someone who has lived in the UAE my entire life and seen so much extravagance on display, I still get shocked when I hear that someone would pay what I probably would not earn if I had 10 lifetimes put together, for just . a. number.

    Btw, can someone verify if the money really does go to charity??

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