Saturday, 27 October 2007

family, fossils and the zoo

I've been to Aus and back since my last post because my brother-in-law passed away quite suddenly. Although it is sad, there is some comfort in the fact that he was happy and quite active in his last few years. He regularly rode his bicycle 200 kms or more on the weekend. That's like riding to Dubai and back! He had lots of friends, family and was involved in the community in a number of capacities.

His passing struck my niece and nephew hardest. They lost their mother 10 years ago and now their father. Their courage in the circumstances was amazing. They are both married with young children. Both have a three year old and a one year old. They organised the funeral at which they both spoke. They met all of their father's friends and relatives and remained composed throughout. As well as managing their familes and the funeral, they had to sort out their father's business affairs. He was a lawyer who worked from home and had a large client list with many cases half done and in urgent need of attention. Neither of them work in that area, but they managed to contact the appropriate people to help them sort through it all. In addition they had to find the will and start thinking about what will happen to the property. I was amazed by their ability to cope. I was proud of them and know that my sister, their mother, would have been very proud of her children.

On a far more mundane note, I finally ventured over the border into Oman. We went to a souk in Buraimi and on to a hotel for lunch. Later we peeped at fossil valley which is quite a sensational landscape. Speaking of fossils, I wouldn't have been surprised if John Wayne had ridden by on horseback wearing his red and white kerchief. It is a stunning landscape.

Oh, and I recently went to the zoo. I just love it. We went during Eid but having heard about the likelihood of crowds, we got there at 8:30 in the morning so it was reasonably quiet. Some of the exhibits are a little sad. There is a lone gorilla who was intent on showing his back to any onlookers. The monkeys looked a little cramped. The highlight was the giraffes. It was quite funny to see a keeper wheeling a wheelbarrow along being followed by giraffes, deer, ibises, emu and an assortment of other animals. Clearly it was breakfast time!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

driving in Al Ain

This strikes me as being a telling juxtaposition of postings! If anything drives me out of Al Ain, it'll be the traffic. It's just manic. We took a wrong turn last night at about 9pm and ended up in the city which was not quite what we had in mind. It was 10pm before we managed to get out the other end!

To say the traffic was bumper to bumper is to put it mildly. It was side panel to side panel, front right corner to front left fender, back left fender to bumper. If there was half a centimetre to spare anywhere, a car was sure to see that as an opportunity to jump in. Pedestrians were leaping off dark sidewalks criss crossing the traffic, so anytime cars moved at more than .25 of a km an hour brakes were slammed on suddenly. A couple of times we wanted to go one way, but someone more determined and more assertive muscled their way infront of us and forced us to go another direction. At one stage we ended up in a grid locked car park we hadn't intended to be in. It took a 53 point turn and some derring-do to get out. It was impossible to see what was happening at roundabouts because there was almost always either a 4WD or a car with tinted windows on our left.

I should laugh, but it really is quite stressful.

Monday, 8 October 2007

all grown up

I got my licence. I got my licence. (sung to the tune of the kids taunt ... nah nah nah nah-nah.)

Friday, 5 October 2007

a good day in doobs

I went back to Dubai last weekend for the first time since 'the accident.' I felt quite safe as we were in a ginormous 4-wheel drive. My previous impressions of Dubai were that it was one huge construction site with unreasonble heat, traffic accidents and ridiculously big shopping malls.

This time it was a magic place. At sunset we wandered through the narrow cobblestone laneways of a souk near a river where dhows were making their way up and down and the call to prayer was sounding in the background. (The cost of a dhow trip is Dh1 unless you are a westerner in which case they'll try to charge Dh10. If you happen to be Japanese it seems that the cost is likely to be Dh100. The thing to do apparently is to hand over Dh1 and laugh if they try to tell you it is more.) We'll save the dhow trip until next time as the spice market across the river wasn't open; and that seems to be the place to go.

That evening we went out for dinner and had drinks on a lantern-lit terrace by a river upon which once again dhows were criss crossing. It was beautiful; straight out of a fairytale. I wouldn't have been too surprised if Aladdin had flown by on a magic carpet. The weekend was topped off by getting up at 8am on Saturday morning just in time to watch the Australian Football League Grand Final live from Melbourne. A sensational, unexpected treat; and Geelong won for the first time in over 40 years - way to go Geelong!

So what do I think of Dubai? Well, it has bad days, but it definitely has good days too.