Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Day Of The Camel
I finally saw my first live camels today on the way to work. I emerged from a bank of fog near the Nad Al Sheba racetrack and, having to slow down for the aftermath of yet another car crash, I caught sight of about 20 of these magnificent beasts trotting along the racetrack to my right, heading for their morning training.
I wasn't the only one to spot a camel or two. The WIFE went for a little drive today. She's getting brave now, and decided to venture outside of the relative safety of the Emirates Hills development, and head to the Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall, which is named after a famous Arabian traveller. The mall is themed around the various places he visited, with a Chinese court and an Indian court and so on. It is quite an interesting mall, as malls go, and has some educational displays to look at, and a full-size replica of a Chinese junk. It's also a lot quieter than the Mall of the Emirates.
Anyway, I digress. The WIFE managed to miss her turning from the Sheik Zayed Road, which I will attest to being an easy thing to do, and she ended up driving in the general direction of Abu Dhabi with a rising sense of panic. She phoned me from a petrol station, jabbering on about being in the middle of the desert and having nearly collided with a group of camels (what's the collective noun, I wonder?) and with a few calming words ("Calm down, you silly moo" didn't initially work, to be fair), she got the message that she had to turn off ASAP and head back for Dubai. She managed to do that, get to the mall, and get home in one piece. As I told her, it's all part of the experience of this place. The roads and signs are confusing and misleading and you can end up more lost than a group of sickeningly photogenic people who have crashed on a tropical island in no time at all. You can usually see the place you want to get to from the main road, but actually getting to it can be a real challenge unless you know the precise place names to look for and which and slip-road to take.
I got lost every day for my first week, which was infuriating, but ironically this helped me in the long run, because I got to know the names of places quite quickly and am now fairly comfortable with getting around, although it is still possible to take the wrong turning and end up in some dusty industrial estate.
Later today, there was some bad news about a friend I made early on during my time here. This chap had taken me under his wing, invited me for a beer, and had shown me some of the more "interesting" places in Dubai. He had also been good enough to rent the spare room in his lovely Villa in Jumeirah to me for a couple of weeks so I could get out of the crappy London Crown Hotel Apartments. Anyway, I hadn't heard from him, apart from one short e-mail, since I had moved into my Villa a couple of weeks ago, and so today at lunch I sent a text message to a mate of his asking if he was alright. The ominous message, "Call me" came back. Oh, bugger. The worst of worst things went through my mind, and when I rang up I found out that he had been dune-bashing in his Jeep last weekend and had managed to somersault the bloody thing over a dune and had broken his neck in 5 places. It had been touch-and-go as to whether he would be paralysed or not, but it seems he has been quite lucky and has just(!) broken the verterbrae in his neck, without damaging the spinal cord.
Apparently he is now resting up at home in a neck brace. Get well soon, mate!