Growing in the countryside of Black Forest in Southern Germany, Rene Egle use to ride single-cylinder Kramer tractors from the 1930s to deliver timbers to different storage units to be used for window-making which is their family’s business.
“As kids, we kept riding on them with my father and completely fell in love with the noise of the motor — the steel wheel of the engine spinning and the rattling of the metal seat. I never forget the first time I was allowed to ride the mini monster myself,” he shared.
With his family having gone through two wars, they manage to collect many machines and vehicles which is why it became their unofficial motto to “Never throw away anything as they can be reused in the future.”
“I was surrounded by old motorbikes (by old, I mean antique), tractors (from the ’30s), and even an old Mercedes from the ’50s. My friends and I fixed some of these old motorbikes and even tried to build our own biplane which we honestly believed might even fly, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Nevertheless, it was a work of art,” he said.
That love for antique and classic vehicles would follow Rene even as he got older. Surprisingly though, even though he has travelled the world being an executive for different luxury hotels, it was only in the Sultanate of Oman that he was able to drive the oldest car.
“The oldest car I have driven was actually here at Shangri-La Muscat, a Ford Deluxe from 1946 and the experience was magical. Remember these cars do not have power steering and to shift gears whilst steering the car is real work. The difference to modern cars is of course that you feel the car, you feel the tires when you drive through a curve, you hear the engine roar when you accelerate the car vibrates and it feels alive, and you even smell the gasoline inside the car, as I said — amazing,” he said.
Before coming to the Sultanate of Oman, Rene worked in China where he came across the ancestor of the BMWR35 from 1935 which is one of the good old sidecar bikes with boxer engines loved by the Chinese. That discovery would lead him to take an extraordinary adventure travelling on the said vehicle across different countries from Beijing to Berlin.
“Classic Cars or other classic vehicles have a very strong sense of nostalgia attached to them. Some love a certain brand such as Ferrari that is associated with car races, others love cars from the ’60s and ’70s that are associated with movie classics and others love military classics like the Willys Jeep or the never ageing Land Rover. In Indonesia, the Willis Jeep is still used widely by workers and when I was working in Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta, I took one glance at one of them and was hooked. I bought one and shipped it back home to Germany,” he shared.
Although collecting classic and vintage cars can be an expensive hobby, it has its own allure to some people. From nostalgia to just pure hobby fascinated by old machines, even in Muscat, there is a community that delves into both the luxury and complexities of these cars.
“It takes a lot of work to keep these vehicles going, depending on the vehicles spare parts can be hard to get and can also get quite expensive. The advantage is of course that older engines are much more mechanical than the modern ones which you can still repair yourself. To repair today’s cars, the screwdriver, pliers and wrench have been replaced by a laptop,” Rene said.
Rene is aware however that for a country like the Sultanate of Oman, travelling the country has to be convenient and some classic cars will definitely have trouble navigating some of the roads.
Still considering himself as new in the Sultanate of Oman, the farthest he said he has driven is Jabal Shams saying “the ‘Grand Canyon of the Middle East Jebel Shams was quite unexpected and truly impressive.”
“Exploring the Sultanate of Oman is literally like going through a treasure throve. I can ride with my mountain bike through remote valleys and be left speechless by the sheer beauty of the rock faces that feature some of the most stunning geological patterns I have seen anywhere. Sometimes I like to just drive and explore without a specific destination, leave the highway and simply go and explore side roads,” he said.
He shared, “One day my wife and I were going for one of these exploratory drives, passing by Nizwa and then into the countryside, almost 300 km from Muscat. We continued off-road following dirt tracks and suddenly completely out of nowhere, we came across the most amazing stunningly beautiful Wadi surrounded by rocks and crystal clear water. We took our backpack and off we went to explore the Wadi. Unfortunately, until today I don’t know the name and most probably would not find it anymore, but it was just one example of the stunning beauty of this country.”
He added, “When it comes to meaningful experiences, these are almost always encountered with Omani people in the countryside. I do not yet speak Arabic and many Omanis in the countryside do not speak English and yet the extremely polite and welcoming attitude that I have accounted for so many times leaves lasting impressions. I could share with you many such encounters, be it Omanis I have met during my bicycle rides, on trips to the mountains or in the countryside there, is this consistent Omani Hospitality from the heart.”
As the Area General Manager of the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah and Shangri-La al Husn in the Sultanate of Oman, this hospitality is what makes Rene proud of being in the Sultanate of Oman and believe in the sheer beauty of the Sultanate of Oman to attract travellers. Recently been selected as one of the Power 100 GMs in the MENA region, he is leading the team into delving more into the rich Omani culture and heritage and its amazing natural geology currently venturing into using natural rocks of different types to use as decors or art pieces in the property he handles.
The Pandemic, Rene said, was probably the greatest catastrophe that affected the worldwide hospitality and travel industry since World War Two.
“It was quite an experience to go from a certain routine of driving business, creating strategies and tactics, planning for the future to a sudden complete closure of all hotels. The biggest challenge was to keep the hotel going especially since our complex is comprised of three hotels. There are two key points to take away from this experience. One is that in today’s world, you can never take the status quo for granted and you clearly have to be ready for the unexpected at any time. One example would be natural disasters that are becoming much more frequent. The second takeaway is that you need a great and energetic team to get you through such a crisis and I am extremely proud of my team,” he said.
Now that countries all over the world are easing back to travel, Rene is excited to explore more of Sultanate of Oman’s attractions as well as the rich collection of classic cars that can be found in the Sultanate of Oman. He also encourages everyone that despite busy lifestyles, everyone should learn to disconnect.
“It is my personal belief that a hobby or other interests outside work are essential. In my case I like to go on bicycle rides in my free time, exercise, write or travel. Whichever I choose, it allows me to take my mind off the challenges and problems at work and recharge. Not only recharge but in my case, it also happens to be my most creative period, when I am cycling I have the chance to rearrange my thoughts, compartmentalise problems, come up with solutions and without exception, almost always come up with new creative ideas.”