I read a label on a bottle of disinfectant today. It said, in that commanding manner that these things all seem to have, "KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN"
Good advice, I thought. Problem is, I've spawned two of them and so I can't really keep away from them that much. Ho-hum.
Of course, I love them really. There's the BOY - an inquisitive, sulky, boisterous, completely bonkers 6-year-old who is inclined of late to impersonate Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons should anything unfortunate occur to anyone - particularly me. In the supermarket today I managed to knock a large bag of crisps onto the floor in my normal clumsy way.
Then I picked them up and dropped them just as I was about to replace them.
I just had to laugh as well, because the crab sandwich in my basket wasn't big enough to hurt him with.
Then there's the GIRL. She's also bonkers, even more so, and has the biggest case of split personality I've ever seen in a 2-year-old. She will be making you laugh with her silly faces and voices and sounds one minute, then the next she will be screaming blue murder at some perceived injustice. This can cause some tense moments in restaurants and supermarkets, mainly because we often let her get on with it, since asking her to calm her down is about as effective as using cream cheese as a tile adhesive. The only really effective way of ending the tantrums and screaming is to threaten her with an AK-47. But since this is frowned upon by do-gooding types and the public at large, we end up distracting her by acting like fools. So we leave the public space with our reputations as good parents and normal, balanced people completely in tatters.
Anyway, I'm digressing. We had a good day today, as it was. Well, apart from the shouting match I had with the WIFE when I mistakenly sent her the wrong way driving out of the Mall of the Emirates. It's an easy thing to do when the signs all point the wrong bloody way. Apart from that - a good day. We did our food shop at Carréfour, had lunch, then decided to head for Hatta. Hatta is a small town near the Omani border, about 100km from Dubai city. Getting there involves driving through the desert, albeit on a proper dual carriageway, and we fancied exploring a bit more of the country, so off we went.
As we left Dubai, we passed loads of developments and upcoming developments. We saw the fake (but full-sized) space shuttle and roller coaster near where they are building Dubailand, which is apparently going to be bigger than Disneyland. We saw the Sports City site, which will basically be an Olympic city. They haven't bid for the Olympics yet, but watch this space. We saw a hoarding with a picture of the replica Eiffel tower. We saw the Autodrome - a Formula One-standard motor racing circuit. It just keeps going and going, and you realise that this place will still be growing in 10 years.
Finally, we started leaving the city and the development behind us. The landscape changed gradually as we got further into the wilds of the UAE. The plant life became more and more scarce, the sand darkened in colour, and about 45 minutes after setting off, we were surrounded by undulating orange dunes and not much else really. A game of I Spy would have lasted about 4 rounds. The traffic was non-existent, and every way we looked there was just sand and sky.
This continued for a while, and then we spotted the mountain range coming into view on the horizon. These mountains are real desert mountains - grey, harsh, inhospitable and impressive in scale. They look like the mountains in Lord Of The Rings. Bilbo Bobbins is coming!
As I was taking in this view, an SMS came through to my mobile telling me I could use my Etisalat account on a roaming basis. Which is all well and good, but I thought I was still in the UAE. Wrong-o! It seems that you actually go into Oman and then out again on the way to Hatta, which is part in the Emirate of Dubai. My phone was now telling me that my network was Etisalat Oman. Crazy shit, man. There were no border controls or any signs saying WELCOME TO OMAN or anything. They have different petrol stations, though. I saw a Shell garage for the first time in 3 months. I was nearly overcome with excitement.
We had read about the carpet shops along the road to Hatta, and lo and behold, there is a long stretch of just that as you approach Hatta. The WIFE was keen to find a nice rug for the living room, so we pulled in at one and after a quick look around and the obilgatory haggle (you've gotta haggle), we drove away with a nice colourful rug.
Then we arrived in Hatta. You know you've got to Hatta because you come to a roundabout with a big mock fort thing right in the middle of it.
Hatta itself is pretty unimpressive. There are lots of shabby buildings and they have the biggest speed bumps in the world. There is a heritage site there as well, but it looked closed, so we headed to the Hatta Fort Hotel, which is raved about in various publications. It's more like a resort than a hotel, with sporting facilities galore and chalet style rooms. We had a play in the kiddies' park, a quick gurn at the beautiful people in the inviting pools, then as we walked around the hotel grounds, we luckily turned round and caught sight of the view that is behind you as you enter the main hotel building.
Then we went for tea in the hotel coffee shop. Or dinner, whatever you wanna call it. It was getting late, and there was an hour and a half's drive ahead. The meal was OK. Not over-expensive and not really flash. Adequate is the word I'm looking for. What made it for us was having a really good view of the sun setting behind the mountains as we ate. The BOY was particularly impressed as he saw the last sliver of burning orange disappear behind the mountain.
To be fair, the banana and coconut pie was nice as well.
So, we left Hatta in the dark. I was quite excited about this, because I fully expected to drive back to Dubai through the desert and see the starry, unpolluted sky above me, which is supposedly a really amazing sight to behold. Sadly, this wasn't to be, because the oh-so-safety conscious people running this country decided to put great big, bright orange street lights along the entire length of the Dubai-Hatta road, so all we saw above our heads on the drive back was a load of street lights. It didn't even feel slightly dangerous or anything, because it was like driving along an urban motorway. They can do thousands and thousands of street lights - oh yes. But can they stop people driving like maniacs? I think you know the answer.
As for the the starry sky - our time will come. A desert safari trip is going to have to be squeezed in at some point. I can't wait.