Time in Dubai, my sister’s 40th, Happy Diwali………..and Eid Mubarak

The flight over from Nairobi (often referred to as Nairobbery) to Dubai was un-eventful. It was however, great to be in the land of civilization. I was no longer an ‘mzungu’ (white man) and subject to demands for money, or water – or subject to questions about whether I wanted an over priced taxi, or did I care to buy some curio stuff / vegetables ……….or anything that involved transferring the money from my pocket into someone else’s?  In fact, some very friendly – and pretty – air hostesses offered me things that didn’t involve getting any money out of my wallet.  How nice.  And when I arrived at DXB, I was very disappointed that no one rushed forward to help me through immigration and customs (for a small fee, of course). In fact, I had to wonder around aimlessly and when I did find someone interested in my passport, he seemed apathetic. He wasn’t interest in money (usually payable in $US), nor was he interested in how long I wanted to stay – simply gave me 30 days.  He was however, interested in my sister’s telephone number – but I think that must have been because I told him that is where I was staying. I don’t know. You can’t always tell.

I wasn’t in Dubai just for the above – Terry was waiting for me outside. She had some flowers in her hand which I thought was very kind, but a bit odd to give a guy. I was relieved when she didn’t give them to me and stated she bought them because they were cheaper at the airport than Spinneys (like Waitrose in UK or Woolworths in SA)! I must remember that.

As ever,  the Dubai social scene kicked in and I was duly carted here there and everywhere. From restaurants, to parties and even down to Fujeira  for a yachting experience. See piccy left as T and I savour the freedom. Our Aussie skipper sailed (motored – there wasn’t enough wind) over to an oil-free beach where one could snorkel.  Fortunately, he knew about applying vinegar to the sea-urchin victims that started arriving back on board.  The food was good, but I noted there was no (Family Hold Back – FHB) in this vessel. Families just tucked in and Terry and thought we might have missed the boat! Fortunately, the skipper again seemed prepared and brought some more out, for Terry and I.

I must say, Terry has some wonderful contacts in Dubai, both from her days in hospitality and currently here in her job where she can decide which hotels she sends people her people to stay. We get invitations to dinner quite often – recently, we went here http://www.theaddress.com/en/dining/hukama-1 Outstanding food and company. Adrian, who had invited us, wouldn’t let us pay anything, so I sent him a thank you card.

Later that week, Terry went and stayed at the Address (Downtown). Bit of luxury and pampering (mates rates – again). The view was excellent, service attentive and we had access to food and wine pretty much all the time.  The Club Executive Lounge made a great place to lay about and read, whilst sampling delicious quiches, tarts and other  delights – all to a very good Chardonnay, naturally.

At night, hoards flocked to watch choreographed fountains do their thing. Terry and I didn’t need to flock anywhere. We simply waved a hand and had to be ready to know what to order when the very friendly staff would enquire what we wanted. The views were spectacular from our floor. I am sure they were good for those at ground level, but you always get a tall fella stood in front and well, that kinda spoils it.

Next treat – Zuma for lunch. No not Jacob….DIFC!

Japanese food. At first they bring you tiny morsels of food, which aren’t even cooked. And the soup bowl has nothing with which to spoon the liquid with, so you have no option but to pick it up and slurp noisily. At firstI thought people might think it rude, but everyone is well mannered and they copy you so you don’t feel embarrassed. Before you realise it – even by holding back on the bread – there comes a point at which you realise you may not make desert. At that point you stop and do some conversing for a while, at least until you can pick up the shovel again.

Desert is always avoided – well that is the intent – until you realise you have the breaking strain of a ‘kit kat’ especially as it is included in the price.

And then there was Faulty/Fawlty Towers. An interactive dinner at a restaurant that includes Basil and Manuel, et al, doing their thing. From start to finish, we were in stitches as Basil, hounded by his wife, does his best to convey to Manuel how to serve nuts to the guests, distribute bread rolls, etc. Manuel chased my bread roll down the isle and jumped on it to stop it getting away. He then, with a flourish, deposited it on my plate. Basil instructs handing out the butter – and Manual promptly ‘butts her’ – Terry that is. She didn’t know what to do with herself.

But it wasn’t all decadence and luxury. Oh no. When Eid Mubarak was declared and Terry found we had a few days, we opted to go camping. One of the many nice things to in Dubai, or in fact, the United Arab Emirates. Armed with my trusty Explorer Off-road for UAE, – the very latest one – I chose and planned our next destination / camp-site.  All the usual suspects such as Mussandam, Fujeira and Hatta would no doubt be inundated with camping parties. I had a cunning plan in which we would avoid all of that. We were going camping up the West coast, on the beach.

Complete with new mini – portable braai – and a large bag padkos (roadfood) Terry and I set off for a three hour journey, heading west towards Saudi Arabia. I was looking forward to setting up camp on the beach, digging in the cool-box which contained boereworse, steaks, beers and wine. For african TV (fire) Terry and I had 20 bundles of wood in addition to the charcoal for the braai. Reading, eating, sun-tanning and sleeping would be the agenda for the next 48 hours.

What I hadn’t realised was that Murphy had decided to participate on this one. His laws are irrefutable, aren’t they?   The updated and revised 2011 Explorer Off road book failed to reflect there was a new motoway section – so when I instructed Terry to take the Dhanna exit we came off and went round and round a roundabout: the bit leading to Jebel Dhanna was closed!  A call to the Hotel in the area revealed we had to re-join the motoway and after some shennanigans (and a lengthy period) found ourselves in the right location. But there was more. Much more. The hotel, and it’s sister 2 star hotel had all the land on the beach and no camping was allowed. Whilst ordinarily this wouldn’t present a major problem, the fact that a Golf club carried on from there, and they didn’t want us either, left us with what lay beyond them, a new Oil Refinery in mid-construction. And we didn’t fancy being near them!  Manoeuvring to flank left around all this, we were chased off by a military chap brandishing a fire-arm. Terry and I didn’t wait to finished reading the signboard and all it’s restrictions. At no time did the camera deploy either and we finally gave up when we realise that the hotels were sandwiched by, on the one hand – an oil refinery and on the other – a thermo nuclear power station. And the latter wasn’t under construction, it has been there for some time.

By now darkness was approaching, so I opted for a re-shuffle.  Spend a night in the cheapo hotel and get going early next day in search of free beach. This we did. And because the pool was being renovated, we were able to use the 5 star one the next morning . It looked pretty good,

until Terry and I could no longer take the squealing kids. So we upped sticks and headed off to the beach in search of more peaceful surroundings. The azure blue sea, white sands, clear skies and unbound beauty and tranquillity were not to be found here.  The gasoline smell was strong, oil tankers lining up off-shore to take on crude somewhat covered the horizon and a pleasure boat was roaring up and down with one of those banana boats in tow. We left.

We spent a fair bit of the day deviating off onto tracks in search of beach – unmolested or unoccupied. We didn’t find any. Either chased off by military or stopped by hotel gates/fences, we eventually we ended up back in Dubai. So I can report conclusively that whilst the UAE Explorer Offroad book states categorically that there are no restrictions on camping, (although one should be respectful and not camp amongst someone’s crops) clearly they forgot to mention this excludes camping ON the beach. And how silly of me not to notice.

My biggest question though, is what to do with 19 & 1/2 bundles of fire-wood. It cannot be used for a braai on the balcony. Even the guard came to see if the building was on fire and 3 days on, Terry and I can still smell smoke as we enter the apartment.  We spent the remaining time having picnics on the beach, which aparently you are allowed to do. And when we weren’t doing that, we went to the movies.

Happy Eid Mubarak

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