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‘No shame in pursuing your passion’ ‘Just do what you want to do and be good at it’

IT’S not always easy to do what you love to do when the community, society or family frowns upon it. You usually get classed as the odd one, but despite the classifications of people around you, one can argue that it’s more freeing to do what you want to do when you make peace with what you are being classified as and disregard what people think, as long as you love it, why not pursue it. In a country where males are the dominant gender in most fields, it’s difficult for a female to pursue an interest that’s being generalized as a male’s field.

Such is the case on the world of cars here in Kuwait, it’s almost exclusive to males, therefore when a female appears on the scene, she is instantly classed as strange, treated differently, stared at and judged. But if all this is disregarded, it is as if it’s not there, and the emotion of happiness settles in while you do what you love doing. This is practically Sarah Al-Khuraibet’s approach to this matter, she is your female car enthusiast, who didn’t get pushed back by what society thinks about a female entering the world of cars, disregarded it and simply did what she loved doing.

Question: Tell us a little about yourself.
Answer: I’m twenty one years old, graduated from the Australian University of Kuwait (AUK) with a diploma in mechanical engineering.  I’m a big car enthusiast, the only difference is that I am a girl, I guess, I own a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan which I worked on for about a year, a full restoration project. I also have a 2006 Nissan Titan, and hopefully my third car in the near future, maybe a Nissan GTR or a 370z........hopefully!

Q: What drew you to the world of cars?
A: I have always been into cars, because my brothers have always been into motorcycles, my father and my uncle as well, so it’s always been in the family in one way or another. When I got my diploma, it only enforced in me that passion for cars I guess, because I studied something that I’m passionate about, which is a great thing. 

Q: Are you saying that you chose mechanical engineering because of your passion for cars?
A: You can say that cars were fifty percent of the reason why I chose this particular field. Engineering never crossed my mind at first, I wanted to be a physicist which is a field that has almost nothing to do with cars, but then I realized that in engineering, you get the physics part as well as the car part, two things I loved in one field called mechanical engineering, the best of both world I guess.

Q: Considering you are a female, and the fact that the world of cars is dominated by males, more so here in the Middle East, tell us about your experience in the world of cars here in Kuwait.
A: Well here in Kuwait, you do have people that will give you trouble about the fact that you are a female, I mean I can’t drive around with my Chevy without being harassed, I would be driving down the Gulf Road headed to a car gathering event, there is always some sort of harassment from other male drivers on the road. But then again you do get a lot of support from the local car community, I mean there are people who I have never met before coming up to me during car gatherings and telling me things like “you’re doing an awesome thing, keep it up! “ or “it’s nice to see a girl doing this!”  And this is because there are a lot of girls that love cars but can’t get into the field because of how it’s being percepted here in Kuwait.  They say things like “guys will give me trouble” and so on,  but in my opinion, if you love it just go do it, you love cars? get a car and work on it, it’s not something that’s exclusive for men. There are a lot of female car enthusiasts around the world that are actually doing something, for example there is this Swedish girl named Jessica who worked on her Toyota Supra making it run with over 1000 horse power. I guess what I’m trying to say is that when people see someone doing something, the rest will get less afraid of doing it themselves.

Q: You said that a lot of girls are afraid to pursue their passion for cars because of what people would think, did you go experience this fear yourself too?
A: Me personally I did not, because I know what I wanted to do, and what I want to do is not wrong. you shouldn’t be given trouble for doing something you love, as long as its not wrong, why not enforce it instead of discouraging it. I was lucky enough to have my family and friends support me in what I love doing, they are always backing me up, telling me “go do it, you are obviously good at it” so I went and I did. People will still talk though, especially in this country but then again its just a matter of cancelling out all the whispers and just do what you do and be good at it.

Q: So your family has always been supportive of the idea that you’re a female car enthusiast?
 A: Yes, my family has been and still is supportive, my mother was on the edge at first, she used to point out that I’m spending all my money in this and so on, but then she came around and realized that even though this thing that I do gets me broke, there is that certain feeling of irreplaceable satisfaction that you gain when you fully restore a classic car or fully modify a sports car. You work hard on a car for a whole year and in the end you shout out “now its done!” The feeling is just priceless I would say.
 

Q: Would you say that you’re the only girl that’s gone this far in terms of being a car enthusiast?
A: I know of a couple of other girls but their kind of “underground” if you may, say as if they would rather stay away from eyes. But you do have the girls in “Road Rush,” I mean they drag race Ferraris and Porsches, but their more into super cars while I’m more into classics. I do want to broaden my reach, I want to get into track racing.

Q: What’s the dream? what is it that you want to achieve in the world of cars?
A: I haven’t set a goal per say, I’m kind of going with the flow, I mean I wanted the Chevy at first, worked on it, finished it, and now I want a sports car and work on it too. Meanwhile I really want to get into track racing.

Q: What is track racing?
A: Its essentially a type of racing where competitors race around a set track, there are different ways of determining the victor, there is time trial, points or just simply cross the finish line first.    

Q: You said that you have always been interested in cars, does that mean that even as a child?
A: Yes, it’s not something that little girls are supposed to be interested in but yeah even as a child. My dream car as a kid was a 1969 Dodge Charger RT or a 1967 Chevy Impala SS, at the time I really dreamt of owning these cars. I was a big fan of other cars as well, like the Nissan Skyline R34 or the Toyota Supra, I mean what car enthusiast wouldn’t want to own an R34. I just consider these cars as pieces of art, the engineering the design and all the physics behind it is just “perfection.”

Q: Back to the difficulties of being a female car enthusiast here in Kuwait, were there any incidents where you were treated differently because you’re a female car enthusiast?
A: Yes, it happens more frequently than you would think. for example when you go to garages seeking repairs or something, it’s always strange when a girl is taking her own car, garage owners always try to rip you off, they even do it to males, but they believe it’s easier to do it to females.  So you do have a lot of these situations where people  will say things like “aah she’s a girl, she probably doesn’t know what she is talking about,” which is sad really, because you have all this knowledge but you can’t put it out there because you will just get undermined. its a whole different story when it comes to the car community in Kuwait though, they treat me like family, and are proud of having a girl in the scene, pointing out to other people that this scene is not exclusive for males, encouraging me to go farther and such, which is a great thing because you don’t feel excluded.

Q: How hard is it for a female to be a car enthusiast in Kuwait or the Gulf region?
A: The mentality here in Gulf region is not as open minded as the United States or the United Kingdom for example, there a lot of hindering and difficulties a female will face, some people will argue that it’s not as difficult as people think, being a female myself I can tell you with confidence that it is indeed difficult. You have people that will call you names, and classing you as if they know you just because you are a female that is into cars, a lot of negative ideas or perceptions about girl car enthusiasts, I’m talking about the general public here, not family or friends or the car community, because it’s almost guaranteed that you will have their support but not so much with the public. Granted that you will be treated differently by the males, but what’s worst is when you get treated differently by the females. There are some girls I know that tell me things like “you shouldn’t do this thing, because it’s for guys,” while they treat and look at me differently.

There was this one girl that approached me once and criticized what I’m doing and actually told me that “I’ll go to hell if I continue down this road.” I have to point out though that females are more supportive than the males in general, but you still have the small percentage of females that will criticize you, as if being criticized by males is not enough. Its because of this belief that males have, classing the car world as their “territory,” and when a female appears in the scene it’s like an invasion. It shouldn’t be a “territory,” it should be open for everyone and enjoyed by everyone, If a male can do it, why can’t a female do it. Even the police join this criticizing party of males; they don’t really treat me nicely, especially when they see me driving a Nissan Titan which is a pickup truck with a registered lift kit, they stop me because I am a girl, and

B: I am driving a lifted pickup truck. After checking my license and registration they would ask me ridiculous questions like “what is your name boy?”  as if my license didn’t clearly state my name is “Sarah,” a female name. So yeah I would say that the police are not friendly whatsoever to females that drive “guy” cars, like pickup trucks or sport cars, I lost count as to how many times I have been harassed by the police, I don’t want to generalize but if a police officer does see a girl driving a “guy” car they are either very mean and issue an undeserved ticket, or very nice and flirtatious and lets you pass even though you’re in violation, while he issues an undeserved ticket to the next car, and again I’m not saying that all police are so, but the ones I have encountered at least. This is essentially why a lot of people don’t respect the traffic law, because officers enforce it on whoever they want while letting other go. In conclusion, there are a lot of difficulties for a female in this field, but I guess it’s something you have to go through.

Q: Tell us about your Chevy Impala restoration project.
A: As I said before, I have always wanted a 67 Chevy Impala SS, it was one of my dream cars, but I couldn’t find one in Kuwait, at this point I just started working so I had the financial capacity to restore a car, so after looking for a while I failed to find a 67 Impala SS. I did however find a 65 Impala sedan on sale for KD3,000, which was pretty expensive for its kind, considering it was in a very bad condition, with a barely functioning inline 6 engine, transmission was a disaster, the clutch was so hard that you needed a hammer to even nudge it, and the interior was basically rubbish, the car was basically bad from its A to Z. This was perfect for me because I wanted a car to fully restore and give life to. I have to say though, I wasn’t planning on buying such a banged up car that needed a ton of work, but then again I liked the challenge.

One thing led to another, I managed bring down the price and I bought it. The most interesting thing about that car is that it’s originally a dealership car, it wasn’t imported straight from the United States, in a way, The Impala I bought is actually part of Kuwaiti heritage. A lot of classical car fans might tell you that the 65 Impala is the ugliest of the Impalas, but that changes when you bring it back from the dead. I then stripped the car down to nothing, and then sent it off to a garage for body work, which took the most time considering the car was rusted everywhere and I had to order spare parts from the United States. With the help of a friend, we managed to yank out the engine and replaced it with a 350 small block Chevy engine, rebuilt it and installed it along with its new transmission, repainted it black, from its original white paint job. Everything basically came together and the day the car came to life was the best day of my life, and I have been participating in classical car gatherings since then, including a classical car event in Bahrain, the car is also recognized and registered at the Kuwait Museum of Classical Cars. At this point I consider the car ninety percent restored, and the last ten is basically some minor work.

Q: You mentioned earlier that there are a lot of girls out there that are keen on joining the car world but are restricted by social criticism and such other difficulties, what would you want to see changed  in order to make it easier for these girls to do what they love doing?
A: Get them involved in this world, because I know a lot of girls that love cars, but they don’t know how to approach this interest of theirs. So I would like to see courses for example, where females can come to learn about the mechanics of cars and so on. Or maybe racing events for women where they can come and learn how to handle a car in a professional manner, whether it’s drifting or drag or just simple track days. I essentially would love to see more invitation from the car world for women, a lot of them have the passion but as I said they don’t know where to go or what to do, If I didn’t have that push and support from family and friends I wouldn’t know what to do or where to go either.

I know that some parents might not be as supportive as mine, when it comes to their daughter joining the car scene, but in my opinion, by not being supportive, your limiting that person, you’re not allowing them be who they are, you’re not making them stronger people. Yes parents do know what’s better for their kids, but at the same time, when you contain or limit your kids, that tends to have a negative effect on them which will be later passed on to their kids and so on. What I’m trying to say is that as long as it’s not something wrong why limit them, there’s nothing shameful about your little girl loving cars.

Q: If you had one message to send out to the public, what would it be?
A: There’s no shame in perusing what you love doing, be supportive to others and help them achieve what they want to achieve. There’s no shame in being supportive, there’s no shame in loving cars, there’s no shame in whatever your passion is, just go for it, and hopefully with support from the public and loved ones you will get there.

biography

Sarah Khuraibet
20-year-old Kuwaiti, born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland with an obsession for automotives.
Holds a Technical Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from the Australian University of Kuwait.
Studied a year in Robert Gordon University in a Mechanical Engineering course.
Currently working as a mechanic in the oil sector.
I am an avid classic car enthusiast – I own a 1965 Chevrolet Impala and an occasional off roader with my 2006 Nissan Titan.
Joined numerous car gathering events.
My 1965 Chevrolet Impala is registered and recognized by the Kuwait Museum for Classical Cars.

By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb
Arab Times Staff


By: Sarah Al-Khuraibet

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