Today had no time frame, no business visit… Instead, we had the sun shining down from a cloudless blue sky with a warm breeze blowing in from the crystalline Arabian Sea. Frothy waves rolling across the shallows bringing with them seashells and the promise of a relaxing day.
Pasty white bodies could be seen baking beneath the azure sky. After awhile, the pasty whiteness was exchanged for a pinker hue and the people began to retreat to the shade beneath the umbrellas. Were you there? Or did you decide to have another adventure? Perhaps you rode the metro to Atlantis (or maybe you took a cab).
This was the day I abandoned the opportunity to relax in exchange for a different journey. After gorging myself on fresh fruit, muffins, and waffles, and laboriously squeezing the juice from multiple oranges, I met up with my Indian guide Sureej for my supposed adventure. My guide took me north, out of Dubai and on to what I hoped would be at least an informative trip. I fancied myself as a modern day Indiana Jones – without the bullwhip or a trusty pistol – but sense of adventure intact. My guide, only slightly taller than Short Round, pointed out the housing of Dubai’s labor force and the contrast between the observed wealth around our hotel.
After awhile, we left the city behind and found endless rows of date palms blowing in the breeze. Who knew that dates were the largest export of the UAE after oil and gas? The date farms covered thousands of acres with each tree irrigated with reclaimed water through miles of black pipe. Eventually, we left the date farms behind. The landscape changed to empty pink dunes whose undulating sands threatening to reclaim the road. Occasionally, we passed seemingly abandoned bulldozers alongside the road. My guide informed me that these dozers were here to continually push back the assaulting sand from the road. Occasionally, we passed through small towns more reminiscent of India than Dubai, with small shops filled with trinkets and dirty children flanking the road on either side.
I eventually asked my guide where in the world he was taking me. He said we were going to see the gas fields beyond the border of the state of Dubai. Beyond the border! Yikes! I did not have my passport, nor did I want to be gone so long. We had already driven over an hour north. For a moment, I thought my small guide was taking me to Oman for some unknown sinister purpose. Suddenly, I saw a sign, “Checkpoint Ahead”, it proclaimed. I could also see large uniformed Arabs with machine guns blocking the road ahead. Too late to pull over and crawl into the trunk and, unfortunately, to close to turn around without being seen. “No passport”, I answered my guide’s inquiry. Ok, we will turn around if they need a passport. Phew! No passport, no entry to the state north of Dubai. We turned around and headed back. On the return trip, my guide peppered me with question about the “stupid things” the Obama administration is doing that affect the whole world. I had answers for few of his questions, but I shared my theories with him and he was eventually satisfied.
We eventually made it back to the hotel and I had enough time to finish “How Will You Measure Your Life”. What an amazing and thought provoking book – especially coupled with the perspective gained from this trip. I guess it is time to take an inventory of life and set some new processes in motion.
Then, the real adventure for the day began. This adventure began with Raja and a Toyota Land Cruiser. After a fuel stop and airing down the tires, we headed for the dunes. Just when we thought the ride was going to be interesting, we pulled into a parking lot (or dune) and walked through the oasis to watch the falconry show. Then, we headed back to our ‘cruiser and off to the dunes. Several rooster tails and one stuck Nissan later, we stopped at a large dune in order to settle a bet about whether old guys like Jim can jump as far off the top of a dune as young guys like Rob, Ryan, or Rhett. After carefully calculating trajectory, distance, wind speed, and other critical factors using our junior high geometry skills, it was determined that no clear winner emerged. The test of manhood was pushed to the next round.
The next round began after another jolting, but invigorating ride around the dunes. Who would make it to the top of the big dune and be crowned king of the hill? The early leaders were the two Cougars that helped the elderly lady make it to the top. But, the clear winner of this round was Bryan because of his astounding ability to leap over the sun on just the second or third attempt! If you were there, you know what I am talking about. Then, back on the road to the oasis.
We were greeted at the oasis by a group of camels waiting to take us for a ride. Some took advantage of the opportunity; others chose to keep their feet stable ground. Either way, we were soon all seated on our reserved cushions (thanks to Dr. R) awaiting dinner and the show. Appetizing cheese puffs and chicken wraps were followed by plates of slightly cold but otherwise tasty food.
After dinner a few of us relaxed our backs by lying on the comfy Persian rugs. Soon, the music got loud and the 24 year old Brazilian, Somaya, entered the staging area and stole Scott’s heart with her blowing veil and undulating hips. Scott was not the only one… Within a few minutes, a rather inebriated gentleman (a-hem!) began to compete with Somaya for our attention. His un-bridled desire for the girl was hilarious to watch and relieved the tension created by the scantily clad girl on the stage. For her part, Somaya continued with her dance, mouthing the lyrics to the familiar songs and ignored the crazy old guy’s gestures. Soon, the dance was over and Somaya bolted across the sand and out of sight.
Demonstrating our ability to follow directions, we leapt to our feet and headed out to the parking area. Our confidence was soon dashed by dozens of similar vehicles making it virtually impossible to figure out which car we came in. Thankfully, the wiser folks found their vehicles and called their jeep-mates over. We were soon on a mad dash across the sand to the re-inflation area to air up our tires. An hour later, we were safely back at our hotel, rapidly slipping into sleep… except for those who were still experiencing the after-effects of India. 😉