Spanish Ambassador to the State of Qatar
Mr Ignacio Escobar.
Please tell us more information about yourself and how many years you have been working for The Spanish Embassy in Qatar, What was your previous job in your country.
Answer. I was born in Spain in 1965, and became a diplomat in 1992 after being a lawyer. I have been posted to various countries including Kuwait, Panama, Morocco back to Spain and the Netherlands, Finland and now in Qatar. Before coming here I was Director of Fisheries Management at the Ministry of Fisheries in Spain for 3 years.
Answer. It’s very difficult because if you like driving it’s nice to experience different sensations with different cars. Now, ever since I was a child I always wanted a Porsche 911 and I was lucky enough to be able to buy one a couple of years ago. I am very fond of classical cars. I managed to buy a 964 Cabrio from 1991. I think it’s a fantastic car; it’s a sports car with 275 horsepower. You cannot compare it to modern cars but still…the styling, the lines are beautiful. What is special about this car is that you can drive it as if it were a normal saloon, yet if you press the accelerator real hard you get a fantastic feeling from it.
Answer. People are very surprised when someone asks what the number one export product from that Spain, and you reply ‘cars’, they won’t believe you. They think perhaps it is wine or olive oil but it’s cars believe it or not. It’s not that we design normal cars anymore (only super cars) but we are manufacturing many cars, as there are factories in Spain for Mercedes, Opel, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Nissan, Iveco, Seat and Volkswagen. Seat was a Spanish brand; it started in the late 50’s. It was actually licensed from Fiat. Starting from the Fiat concept there were some modifications made at the time. But it is a separate brand and was bought several years ago by the Volkswagen group.
Answer. Yes well when you talk about driving I think you have to distinguish between two different things: the capacity to steer a vehicle on the road and to abide by the traffic rules. Being a good driver should include both aspects. I think that drivers in Qatar are very much skilled but there is still room for improvement as far of respecting the traffic rules by the youngest section of the population. I think the situation is improving, as the Authorities are trying to enforce the rules.
Answer. oh yes… yes fortunately I have only had a couple of flat tyres in my life. Last time i was in Kuwait, I was driving a pajero. We got a puncture; we must have gone on a nail or something. I had an inflatable jack and I said ‘let me give it a go and try it. What a good occasion to use my new toy. ‘So, I started to inflate the jack but I inadvertently placed it under a sharp angle of the chassis; with the pressure, the sharp angle ripped the inflatable jack, there was a large bang [he laughs].
Answer. I am not too fond of cars as a sport. I prefer motorcycles like MotoGP because you see things happening in real time. So the pilot who is leading the race is the one who is going to win. With Formula one you can’t see who is in front. I like more bikes and rallies.
Answer. The official car is a Mercedes and the service one is a Hummer. Normally, the Embassy cars are requested to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. The Ministry signs agreements with major brands and you are provided with a car which is normally bought locally because it’s best to have local specifications. It is a good car, solid and in fact it was the FIRST white Embassy car if I am not mistaken. Most of the Embassy cars are black, but now more and more embassies are now getting white cars…
Answer. Yes – in Qatar we have a Mitsubishi Pajero. We needed a 7 seater as we have 5 kids even though they are not all of them are living here.
I bought a Pajero when I was in Kuwait in 1994, and took it with me to Panama, Morocco and Spain. I was so happy with it that when we came to Qatar I thought let’s buy another one. Funnily enough, I bought it second hand and the car was actually a Kuwaiti car, it was from a Qatari gentleman working in Kuwait who sold it to me. Of course, here you are only advised to buy a ToyotaLand Cruiser…
Answer. Yes well, electric cars are probably the future but we are not there yet.
Nowadays, a 100% electric car is what you can use in the city limits where you can have access to electric plugs. The best solution at present are hybrids, which combine electricity and petrol, they will give a great mileage at low cost with reduced emissions. Many taxi drivers in Madrid have hybrids as they have been subsidized, with great results. I think before we develop stronger batteries then hybrid cars are the way to go.
Now in Qatar, in places like here where a liter of petrol is cheaper than a liter of water, it is difficult to encourage people to buy electric cars.
Answer. yes I have! I have done it twice close to khor Al udeid and Sealine.
But I always go with a trained driver. It is thrilling and it’s unique. I would recommend it but it is risky.
The first thing I asked the driver when we were going up a hill, ‘how do you know that there is no other driver coming up the other side and he said there is no way to know! I wouldn’t recommend going on a weekend in the winter.
(I do recommend it, it’s a unique experience!)
Answer. I am not really the one to give advice in driving but I do advice to keep calm as much as you can. Firstly stay on the speed limits, secondly stop on the red lights and be patient with the pedestrians.
Answer. I think it’s got lots of different sections that are interesting such as driving in Doha, Driving information, Driving Schools information, tips on driving, insurance, taxis, Buying selling, Breakdowns information, Plus many other sections cannot mention all of them.
I think that any expat here in Qatar would find it usefully,drive safely everyone and good luck.
From Right Mr Ignacio Escobar Ambassador of the Spanish Embassy with The Director of Cars In Doha.