Y Magazine

Coffee with Sultan Said Saud al Maawali

Alvin Thomas finds out how classic cars help fulfil Sultan Saif Saud al Maawali his passion for life and why his tips on work-life balance are invaluable for youngsters.

There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t live your life, live your dream”. While the quote may seem redundant in today’s fast-paced world, in which people find themselves shackled by their daily routines, there’s one man who believes that going back to pursue your childhood dreams is the key to happiness and contentment.

He is Sultan Saif Saud al Maawali, and he’s been creating waves with a wide range of audiences as his story not only inspires many youngsters to follow their dreams, but also many others who have cast aside their passions in facing up to their responsibilities.

How does he do it? Well, in short, Sultan is an engineer as well as a classic car collector, who has become well-known in Oman thanks to his beautiful cars – a rare 1975 Pontiac Firebird and an even more exclusive Zimmer Golden Spirit (possibly the only one in the Sultanate), which he showcases across the Sultanate as well as other parts of the GCC.

“Many people look at me and say: here’s someone who is fulfilling his dream,” says Sultan, before explaining how the youngsters of today are attaching themselves to their work for long hours while forgetting to live their lives like they have always wanted.

Sultan, who lives in Muscat, currently serves as the service leader for Halliburton’s oil exploration project at Nimr.

But he sees classic cars like a part of his family. And throughout our conversation, I can sense his passion for his motors.

“I like classic cars, and I like anything to do with old cars. What appeals to me is the fact that they were not built solely by engineers but by designers who had a passion for crafting masterpieces,” he says, before explaining how he fell in love with the cars in the first place.

“When I was small I used to walk past the Pontiac showroom (now closed) here in Oman. I remember looking inside the windows and ogling at the beautiful Trans Am that was on display inside.”

His dream to own the car was fuelled further when he started watching the Knight Rider series, which was broadcast on television, here in Oman.

“Something about American muscle cars really gets me. Every time I watch an American movie or TV series, I fall in love with the car in the movie. Bullitt has to be one of my favourite movies from the US.

Despite that, however, K.I.T.T. became the car of Sultan’s dreams. “I would dream about it day and night,” he says.

“By the time I was a teenager, I had made up my mind that I would buy the car one day. Everything I did after that was for getting the car in my hands,” he tells. 

In pursuit of his goal, Sultan got his first job with the General Telecommunications Organisation (now Omantel). However, in 2003, he made a shift towards his current job at Halliburton, starting off as a supervisor before taking over a team of engineers in oil exploration projects for his company across Oman.

“The first thing I did after that was save up for my Firebird,” he says. And in 2013, he bought his first dream car – the 1975 Pontiac Firebird – directly from the US.

His next purchase (in 2016) was the Zimmer Golden Spirit –which is one of the rarest coach-built cars in the world.

“Zimmers are very rare. The car is built in New York and only upon request form specific buyers. I bought my car from an Emirati man after I saw some videos on YouTube. I wasn’t even thinking about buying one until I saw the video,” he says.

Talking to Sultan, however, I realise that he regrets none of his “expensive decisions”.

“I have three daughters and my family is quite big. But everyone supports my love for classic cars, and even they are proud of what we have parked in our garage.

“When I drive the Pontiac or the Zimmer, I feel on top of the world. It’s an addictive feeling. People want to take a picture of the car, and they want to have a selfie with you. If you ask me, I would say that this is the easiest way to become a local celebrity in town,” he laughs.

While most people would do everything they can to protect their car from the elements, Sultan does not believe in keeping his car a secret either. He says: “If you own a car like this, it is your duty to show it to the world. These are cars people have seen only in movies. They would appreciate it if you showed it to the whole world. And by doing that, you’re probably making someone’s day,” he says.

Despite his work at Nimr, Sultan finds time to spend time with his family, as well as tweak his cars in his spare time.

“Classic cars are like having children. They need constant attention and you have to respect that. This keeps me busy, and active too. I currently work for two weeks straight and come back to Muscat for two weeks. And I make sure that I use this time to spend time with my lovelies – my family and my cars.”

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