Last weekend’s road trip to Al Ain with the family seems like a lifetime ago, and yet the toasty skin and the soreness in my muscles are still there to remind me that yes, we did actually go out of town for a bit and managed not to bicker amongst ourselves.
It was my sister’s birthday last Friday too, so there was cake there somewhere. It was also the second day of the Dubai Rugby Sevens and we passed by the new stadium, which was still in scaffolding and stuff. But it is a bigger venue even though it’s miles away from the city.
We started out a bit late, none of the drivers knew the exact roads to take once we hit the end of the Dubai-Al Ain Road. Good thing one of the drivers was a woman, otherwise we would probably be still on the road now trying to find our way back.
The drive to Al Ain took a little less than 2 hours actually, we didn’t stop anywhere along the way as there wasn’t really much except desert on the right and desert on the left with some odd settlement and maybe a nursery or a farm thrown in. We picked up my sister-in-law’s cousin at the town centre and he became our guide as we trekked up the mountain. On this next photo, the mountain in the background was our ultimate destination.
At the bottom of Jebel Hafeet is a sprawling oasis of green grass with plenty of space of picnic areas and playground for locals and out-of-towners like us. It was relatively empty when we got there and would have loved to stay except we didn’t have any supplies to last us more than half an hour.
We were in this exact same place a couple of years ago and had a proper barbecue. Behind that outcrop of rocks is more picnic area and some of the most amazing rock formations I’ve seen here in the UAE. You can tell from the way the slates of rocks sort of grew out of the ground that the movements of earth’s plates millions of years ago pushed it that way. Which means that there is a break in the earth’s crust beneath the UAE all those years ago and which I am hoping have cooled down and hardened by now so as not to cause any earthquakes in this present day. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos as we didn’t venture out that way.
So moving on up, we made the slow climb up to the mountain, one car after the other and the other. Along the way there are three lay-by areas where you can park your car and be awed by the view of the city. As far as the eye could see there was desert. In the immediate vicinity there were clumps of civilization, some greenery and the black tarmac that snakes around these areas. It was not a very clear day but the view was still amazing.
After a few more minutes we arrived at the hotel. Nothing fancy, just a place where we can rest our head, take a shower and relax. We’d had our lunch at the town centre so we got ready to explore the hotel facilities. This is the view from our balcony in the afternoon. It doesn’t look like it but there are three pools: the kiddie one on the right, the fun pool with the slides in the middle and the proper pool on the left. Just beyond those palm trees there is the cliff rolling down the mountainside.
I forgot the damned tripod in the car because we switched to my sister’s Honda. They grabbed the tent out of the boot but not my tripod. What?! So this night shot of the same pool view was taken with my arms resting on the balcony rail. It was bloody cold out I tell you!
I had an awful time though because of a sudden attack of migraine, which I never had in my life. I went on one of the slides and actually got taken by surprise as the slide dipped suddenly. The water wasn’t too deep and I didn’t gulp any of it but when I went up my shoulders and my head were throbbing in pain. It felt like my eyes and my head were going to explode. I thought for a second that my blood pressure shot way up with all that excitement and that I would pop an artery and suffer a heart attack or something. All that worrying sure would have given me a coronary if I didn’t calm down. I thought it had something to do with being in the pool. Of course, I didn’t find out until after the fact that it was indeed a migraine attack and nothing close to my blood pressure or heart. Still it was excruciatingly painful and scary.
Al Ain would have been much more enjoyable if not for that darned migraine. The following day I tried the swimming pool again and avoided the slides like the plague. I swam a couple of lengths and even before I reached the end of the pool in my second dip my head was throbbing again. I gave up and went back up in our room to shower and change.
Before we went swimming the first time, we all decided to do a round of mini golf. I’ve never held a golf club before but, man, this was fun! Even the kids enjoyed it. The dads I think cheated a bit but it was quite enjoyable.
On the way back to Dubai we stopped by the Al Ain Mall because they have this awesome, if small, ice rink which Aibi wanted to try. Would you believe that for US$6.80 you could stay in the rink for as long as you like? You basically just pay for the skates. Aibi had a lot of fun and even showed her dad, brother and uncle the basics. Eventually she gave up out of exhaustion. If that ice rink were in Dubai, they would charge $10 for half an hour!
Did I mention there was cake?
Viel, if you’re reading this, I have one whole Tiramisu here with your name on it!
This little missy, who will be turning 3 this Saturday, deserves an entire blog post of her own. But for now, a teaser of the treasure of some of the funniest, most candid and beautiful (if I say so myself!) portraits I have taken of my niece Isabelle.