Volkswagen did not officially move into the Middle East until 2005, when it established the Middle East regional office in Dubai. That office was tasked with overseeing 11 markets, and eventually a parts center for both VW and Audi was built in Dubai’s Jebel Ali free zone.
But the van had captured imaginations throughout the Middle East long before then and we have managed to dig up some photographs as a testament.
In the 1980s, Siemens provided employees with a VW van. The company car was no shiny road demon with waxed wheels, but a cool VW van that is just as easy to fix as it is to break down.
A group of nine Cambridge graduates set off on a three continent road trip – as the Cold War heated up – in two VW Kombis. That storied journey took them through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and on to Africa, and a book piled high with images and tales of wild encounters is still available for purchase today.
More recently, a photographer discovered a bright yellow VW van in Lebanon. It’s full of junk, including large water bottles, yet it somehow stands out among the other debris with a proud round face. And another came across a VW Kombi in Egypt sporting black and white zebra stripes; it seemed poised for an epic road trip.
Although VW vans are a fixture of life in Brazil, often masquerading as school buses and lunch trucks, sources told NPR that they have to shut down production because new vehicular safety requirements dictate that by 2014, all new vehicles must have air bags.
Special editions will be created throughout the last year of production, so, if you have never taken a road trip in a VW Van, or you’re thinking about investing in a vehicle that will last forever, maybe think about heading to Brazil – even before the next Olympic Games.