Friday, November 04, 2005

The Northern Emirates

We've had another action-packed day with the daddy-in-law. Principally I wanted to do a raid on the Barracuda Booze Emporium in Umm Al Quwain, but it was a good opportunity to get the auld fella out of Dubai, show him some desert and maybe some camels.

So we set off up the Emirates Road. I had heard that they'd finally managed to finish work on National Paints Roundabout in Sharjah, and that the Emirates Road now extends all the way to Ras Al Khaimah. And it's true! What a joy it was to just sail over National Paints, and continue unhindered all the way to UAQ. We took a detour to try to find Falaj Al Mualla - a pretty little village that we visited once about ten years ago. We gave up before we found it and on a whim I decided to follow a little dirt track off the main road. This turned out to be a splendido idea because we encountered half a dozen camels who were experts in the art of pleasing tourists. They posed in well-composed little groups so we could take photos. They meandered very slowly so that Keefieboy could video them. They came to nibble the wing mirrors on the car so we could get some good close-ups. Excellent stuff.

Then we returned to the Emirates Road and took the turn-off for the Barracuda (the signs say Dreamland Aqua Park, but the Barracuda is right next door). The link road from Emirates Road to the old coast road turned out to be exceptionally pretty - rolling red sand dunes and none of the roadside tat and discarded blue plastic bags that grow up alongside more established routes.

Arriving at the Barracuda we had a hell of a time finding a parking space. In case you don't know, the booze emporia of the Northern Emirates traditionally close down completely for the whole of Ramadan. And it's possible that they remained closed yesterday for the first day of Eid. But they were open today and they were swamped with thirsty customers. We finally managed to grab a parking space as somebody left, and decided that we might have a spot of lunch and hope that the crowds in the shop would thin out.

The Barracuda is a 'beach resort'. There are seaside chalets, a nightclub, and, we figured, there must be a restaurant. And indeed there was but it took much asking of directions before we actually found it. They're not very good at signs up there, you see. But when we did find the restaurant it was well worth it. There was an Indian buffet and everything on it was excellent. There was also draught Carlsberg at Dhs 10 a pint!

Suitably stuffed, we headed back to the shop to stock up on the supplies. Every time I visit the Barracuda they seem to have extended in one direction or another. It is now quite gigantic and sells a range of goodies that certainly puts MMI and A&E (the Dubai booze retailers) to shame. The prices are far lower than the Dubai guys, and there is no tax. Why can't they open a branch in Media City I wonder?

The trip back was somewhat less splendid than the outward trip - we only spotted the link road to the Emirates Road as we sailed past it at 100 kph, and there were no other signs. So we ended up taking the old road back down through Ajman and Sharjah before picking up the Emirates Road at National Paints Roundabout.

The daddy-in-law got to see some true Emirates driving. 'Did you see that?!' 'He can't do that!' 'Aaaargh!'. Etc. And he was flabbergasted to see some classic rubbernecking. There had been an accident on the opposite carriageway and of course everyone slowed down for a look. As we were passing the accident the black-windowed Landcrusher in front of us stopped completely. It remained stopped for almost a minute. I beeped my horn and it sped off into the sunset. Daddy-in-law simply could not believe what he had just seen.