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Hajwalah: Arab Drifting Photographed by Peter Garritano

American photographer Peter Garritano captured street racing in UAE, a popular entertainment of wealthy locals.

Peter Garritano

American photographer, lives in New York. His works were published in Time, Wired, Fast Company, CNN, The Atlantic, Vice.

Tafheet, or Hajwalah

A type of race, popular in the Gulf countries. It rose to prominence after the oil crisis of 1973, when the wealth of the Arab Kingdoms rapidly increased. Mostly involving young people under 25. Participation is usually free, and there are no prizes for the winners. Tafheet is half-legal: in some countries, the police can confiscate a car, seize the license, and give a driver a fine.

— Hajwalah, or Tafheet, has been around since the 1970s. It started in Saudi Arabia and spread to other Gulf countries like the UAE, where I visited.

Some of my friends who were into cars showed me videos of these guys probably almost 10 years ago when they first started surfacing on YouTube. I connected with some of the drivers and filmers via Instagram and eventually found a few people generous enough to show me around once I was in UAE. Through these individuals I was allowed press access to the events.

Some of the cars have illegal modifications and the drivers don’t want to be implicated for fear of legal repercussions. Other times, if I was shooting drifters on public roads (where it’s illegal) and they wanted to be anonymous there too, reasonably.

Some of the cars have illegal modifications and the drivers don't want to be implicated for fear of legal repercussions.

The drivers are mostly young men and they are usually driving their own cars that they build and maintain. The most popular cars are Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser.

I rode in one pretty crazy car, a Nissan Patrol that was modified and tuned to over 1400 hp. All four wheels could burn out in 4th gear, it was the fastest, and for sure, scariest thing I’ve ever ridden in. The driver told me he raced and beat a Lamborghini on the highway one time and the driver got out and offered him $100,000 cash for the car but he wouldn’t sell.

There are generally events every weekend in different parts of the country and many events in the neighboring Gulf countries, too. There’s more happening in the winter when it’s a bit cooler. I’m not sure about the requirements to participate but it seemed to be open to anyone. Each driver is given exactly 3 minutes to perform whatever freestyle they choose while judges rank them on style and for the different maneuvers they perform.

There’s a lot of adrenaline and machismo involved, camaraderie and community, too.

There's a lot of adrenaline and machismo involved, camaraderie and community, too.
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