Dh55-million car plate, Dh2-million phone number: How UAE set a world record to feed the hungry

Charity auction saw plenty of plot twists as it set a new world record; proceeds to go in full to ‘1 Billion Meals Endowment’ campaign


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: Neeraj/KT
Photo: Neeraj/KT

Published: Sun 9 Apr 2023, 12:20 PM

Last updated: Sun 9 Apr 2023, 9:15 PM

“Going, going, SOLD!”

These were the words that marked the moment a 16-year history was rewritten. Dubai vehicle number plate P7 was sold for a whopping record-breaking Dh55 million. The evening saw some fierce bidding as the UAE raised Dh97.92 million in a single night to feed the hungry around the world.

Proceeds from the ‘Most Noble Numbers’ charity auction in Dubai on Saturday night will go in full towards supporting the ‘1 Billion Meals Endowment’ campaign — the largest Ramadan sustainable food aid endowment fund.

During the evening, while some bidders were ready to go all out to get what they wanted at all costs, other participants were able to keep their emotions in check and accept when they were outbid, as people raced to own unique numbers. The battle for P7 was filled with twists and turns that would have put a Hollywood movie plot to shame.

Plot twists

Starting at a price of Dh15 million, the bids for P7 rose within seconds to over Dh30 million. The price stagnated for several minutes at Dh35 million which was bid by Pavel Valeryevich Durov, the French-Emirati businessman who founded the instant messaging app Telegram. It looked like he would snag the number as the hosts began to close the sale when suddenly bids started pouring in from several quarters.

As the price started to go up, the tension and emotions in the room were evident. The crowd cheered on as each new bid was placed. From Dh48 million onwards it was a bidding war between three individuals holding bid plate numbers 7, 77 and 1. “It is about (leaving) a legacy for your children,” said the host, trying to appeal to the sentiments of the bidders. Eventually the holder of bid plate 7 outbid his rivals to make history.

Once the bid was closed, celebratory confetti and sparkles rose from the stage as the crowd gathered around the winning bidder to celebrate. He chose to remain anonymous.

With the sale, the number plate became the most expensive plate to be ever sold in the UAE, beating the Dh52.2 million record set by Emirati businessman Saeed Abdul Ghafar Khouri in 2008 in Abu Dhabi when he bought the number plate 1.

Fierce bidding for phone numbers

Another fiercely fought bidding was seen for the etisalat by e& Diamond+ number 054-8888888. Starting at a base value of just Dh10,000, the bids quickly rose to Dh1 million. Other mobile numbers during the evening prior that had only racked up bids of up to Dh140,000.

Photo: Neeraj/KT
Photo: Neeraj/KT

After it crossed the Dh1-million mark, the prices began to rise gradually until it was narrowed down to two friends who were sitting at the same table. The bids rose steadily from Dh1.7 million, mostly in increments of Dh50,000, until the final bid of Dh2.3 million was reached. It was the most expensive phone number sold during the evening. The platinum mobile number 058-3333333 from du was later sold for Dh2 million.

Smashing records for a cause

Organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives in collaboration with its partners, the charity auction invited bids for 35 special numbers, including 14 special RTA vehicle plate numbers, 10 special du mobile numbers and 11 etisalat by e& Diamond+ mobile numbers.

Proceeds of the auction will go towards the 1 Billion Meals Endowment campaign and its aim of creating sustainable solutions to fight hunger and malnutrition in underprivileged communities.

“We are very happy,” said Sara Al Nuaimi, director of the Office of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, who was following the auction keenly. “We were kind of hoping that we would break the record. It got a bit slow in the middle but then it picked up. We are very grateful that this single bid (for P7) has accelerated our goal by Dh55 million. This auction is going to really help us meet our goal.”

Bids for special plate numbers fetched a total of Dh91.59 million, while etisalat by e& Diamond+ numbers raised a total of Dh3.32 million and du special numbers raised over Dh3 million.

Al Nuaimi called on people to continue donating to the noble cause. “Even if it is one dirham, people have a chance to make a difference to those in need,” she said. “We are going to put the funds in an endowment. It is going to continue generating income infinitely for people in need. Any value of money people donate, it is going to be special for us.”

A group of businessmen and leading philanthropists participated in the Most Noble Number charity auction to support the UAE’s campaign to fight world hunger — a challenge that threatens the lives of 828 million people around the world.

“It is always great to participate in an event that has such a noble cause,” said Fahad Al Hassawi, CEO of Du. “We participated with 10 numbers as we always believe that we have a role to play. We also believe that we must work to complement the efforts by the Dubai government so it makes us very happy to be part of this event.”


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