The intention was to leave in a couple of days, very early in the morning, to make sure that the bulk of the journey was completed in the somewhat cooler hours of the day. I duly packed; obviously I had in mind that I was going to visit a mysterious exotic Kingdom. Why was that? Because it was a little tricky getting there although as the crow flies it was only about lOO kilometers In those far off days there were no roads in the conventional sense only subca tracks weaving their way perilously over the sand dunes, I was told it would feel like driving over corrugated iron, extremely uncomfortable and by the end of the journey one’s kidneys would be crying out for help!!
Our driver duly arrived at 6am and we set-off, this time I knew that those little Dior numbers would not be appropriate even if I was to meet the Queen of Sheba on arrival!
We drove away from the apartment and were early enough to admire the beautiful sunrise over the Maktoum Bridge, along a few kilometers of tarmac road before hitting the desert track. My initiation into desert bashing was about to begin!!!
We bounced swerved and thudded over the dunes with camels galloping all around us, yes, I was left in no doubt we were on our way. Was this really going to be an experience not to be missed I wondered as from the out set it really was so incredibly uncomfortable, even in a Mercedes .It was so very slow, and how the driver knew which direction he was going in I will never know, perhaps he had a compass, as obviously there are not normally road signs in the desert!! It most definitely was turning into a mystery tour without any magic. It did not take long before the novelty had worn off but obviously there was no turning back, as we were rocked and rolled from one sand dune to the next.
Eventually, after what seemed an eternity we spied a sight for sore eyes over the horizon, yes, it was the border post, thank god a sign that we were getting closer to our destination. Now this border post was very strange indeed as it was in the middle of no where and consisted of a hut which was manned by a boarder guard and attached to the hut was a barrier which was always open except at pray time 6.7pm when you had to wait. Passports were presented, duly stamped, quite bizarre, after which we were on our way.
As we approached the Island of Abu Dhabi we hit a tarmac road, oh joy of joys, our kidneys were saved from any more poundings but not too sure how the head felt!! There was yet another border post which had to be negotiated where the passports were required to be presented once again.
This was at the entrance to the bridge which had to be crossed to gain access to the Island itself which, in fact, was the main commercial centre of Abu Dhabi After all the anticipation it sure didn’t look too much like Shangri-La. – What a day this was turning out to be!!
We reached the Guest House where we were staying which really was more like a large pre-fab with a corrugated iron roof situated in a nice patch of sand, even our apartment was more exotic than this and that was saying something. I was to discover that these guest houses always had very attentive staff to cater for one’s every whim and wish as they were normally frequented by the bachelors, or visiting ‘firemen’ as chaps from London were fondly referred too. I soon discovered this because I ended up by being stuck in the place all day as once again there wasn’t a playmate in sight, so yes I did wonder why I had been so pleased to be invited along, another little blunder!!
Abu Dhabi, in those days was extremely small but it had a magnificent cornice which had been built alongside the lagoon on one side there were banks, a few shops and one hotel, I think it was called the Oasis and on the other a promenade that was used by the inhabitants to stroll along in the cool of the evening. Unfortunately, the Guest House was too far away to take advantage of this facility and it was August after all!!
Actually it was more like hitting a wild west town, it consisted of a dusty main street with a few shops and coffee shops on either side, no cowboys though, but plenty of camels lolling around together with their owners who were Bedouins. The striking difference here was the abundance of greenery together with masses of date laden palm trees, after the dusty desert it was a joy to behold and it soon became clear why it was an Oasis and held in such esteem by the Bedouins for them it must have been like arriving in Paradise.
Little did I know though that disaster was lurking round the corner as I was bitten by a giant spider on my foot which proceeded to swell at an alarming rate, no doctors in Al Ain only camel doctors and that wouldn’t do so once back in Abu Dhabi something had to be done.
My first encounter with a doctor in foreign parts was about to happen but nothing prepared me for this rendezvous, Dr. Martin was a Scott and had been in Abu Dhabi for years, he delighted in the nick name ‘Remy Martin’, was utterly charming, gave me a jab and a stiff brandy and declared I would surely live to fight another day.
I was somewhat reassured that he was so optimistic but at the time I had my doubts! After three days we flew back to Dubai, in a Fokka Friendship the smallest plane I had ever seen let alone flown in, to this day not sure which was more frightening charging over sand dunes at a rate of knotts or experiencing flying in something akin to a kite!!
After that little ‘outward bound’ exercise I was extremely pleased to be back ‘home’ now that really was an admission or was it about the devil one knew?
Note: The journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (door to door) took approximately 7 hours –
It might have been quicker on a camel!
Essay ll will be published next Tuesday l0th June, see you all then.
Please, please could you take a few moments to leave comments, thank you in advance.
See you all next week Tuesday lOth June,