Sunday, October 22, 2006

(It's today)

Yup. They boys in charge have decided, in their wisdom, that today is the last day of Ramadan. Tomorrow is that start of Eid Al Fitr, so the fasting ends and the partying begins. Phew. They declared Ramadan early this year, so it was actually one day longer than normal, or so I believe.
So yesterday we had a day out. We went to the water park called Wild Wadi, which is right next to the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

We didn't tell the kids about it until we got there. The BOY was convinced we were destined for another half-empty shopping mall. We even sneaked the swimming bags into the car while he had his attention elsewhere. As we got closer to the park he started to suspect the truth, and the relief and excitement in his voice was nice to hear.

We had a good time. There are plenty of rides and slides for young and old. Gentle ones and wild ones. The photo above shows the view from the top of the Jumeirah Sceirah (sic). I did start the arduous climb towards the top, but when I caught sight of the queue winding all the way down the tower and out onto the terrace at the bottom, I changed my mind and went for the ride that goes all the way round the park, with the rider sitting in a large rubber ring. It goes up, down, left, right, over bridges and through long, dark tunnels. They use really powerful water jets to propel you on the upward sections - which is pretty impressive when you're nearly 20 stone. The only problem with this is the jets had a habit of catching my shorts and pushing them forwards and off my backside. I'm glad that none of the slide sections were see-through, for the sake of those below me. It was pretty cool, anyway. I liked the way you could choose different routes of varying scariness on the way and have a different journey every time.

The BOY was a bit shy with some of the bigger things, but was eventually encouraged to go into the wave pool, and had to be literally dragged out of it when we left. The GIRL was her usual Jekyll and Hyde mix of giggling fun and gibbering hysteria. I don't think she should have tried the Sceirah...

As the sun started to set, we made our way out. As we neared the changing rooms, the Wadi show was gearing up. They have built this large artificial cliff-face with a little wadi at the bottom. As we were walking past, thunder crashed from the speakers at ear-splitting levels, and the kids weren't too happy about that, I can tell you. Then the water started spilling from the top of the cliff, and soon a torrent of water was rushing down the cliff and flooding the wadi. I suppose it's meant to mimic what happens in real wadis. When I told the BOY this, he asked me in a shaky voice if there were any near our house. In my best fatherly tone, I reassured him that the only real ones existed out in the desert near the mountains. This didn't really convince him to stay and watch, especially with the noise, so we quickly entered the changing rooms and got ready to leave. The WIFE and the GIRL had long gone.

Overall, a pretty good place to go, I would say, especially as a family or in big groups. I especially like the little innovation of the wristbands that get you in and out of the park, open and lock the lockers, and store credit on them which can be spent around the park so you don't have to carry money around. You get any unused money back at the end. There are some good rides, loads of catering outlets (slightly expensive, as is the norm, I suppose - but not outrageously so) and plenty of places with loungers and parasols to sit and relax if that's what you want to do. And I didn't get stuck in any tubes.

After the wildness of the wadi, we headed for a burger at Hardees (they should bring this chain to the UK - a superior burger restuarant in every way), then thought we'd go for a coffee and a shisha. We went to the Madinat, which was the closest place I thought we could find some, and after a bit of a trek around the Madinat souk, we found out that they had a Shisha terrace at the Mina A'Salam hotel, which is one of two five-star hotels at either end of the complex. So we wandered in to the plush reception, slightly bedraggled from our soggy adventures, and were lead to the terrace, without any hint of haughtiness. We ordered a strawberry shisha and some drinks and sat under a gazebo on large comfy chairs. The shisha man fixed up the big bong-like contraption and set it going, bringing it over and puffing at the end of the pipe to make sure it was lit. Then he stuck another plastic pipe in the end and handed it to us.

The WIFE was curious - I've done shisha before in Taiwan (of all places), and so she had a few little drags on it. After a couple of splutters and coughs she admitted it was quite pleasant - and it is. The smoke is thick, but cool, tasty and very smooth; nothing like a cigarette or cigar. After about five minutes I had a mild buzz, but tobacco alway does that to me. The WIFE had nearly as much as me of it, but the best bit was her comical expression when she smoked. The eyebrows went up and the eyes widened, and she turned her head quickly to one side before exhaling. The drinks were really nice as well. I had a Kiwi Cooler mocktail which was cool, refreshing and bursting with real fruit flavours. The kids were happy to wander around our gazebo, sipping their drinks and looking out over the balcony at the abras (water taxis) coming and going from the station below us. The BOY even had a try at the shisha, but we couldn't get him to suck instead of blow, so all he did was make smoke come out of the other end. I don't think the shisha man was impressed.

We finished our drinks, paid our bill and went down to the abra station. The Madinat has artificial waterways all around it, with little abras to transport guests around the complex. The boats are meant to be for hotel guests only, but they weren't to know, and I doubt we're the first to buck the system, so we jumped on one and glided smoothly past the waterfront promenades full of people dining under the Arabian skies, gentle mood lighting and ethnic music adding to the holiday atmosphere. A gentle breeze caught our faces, and, "Oh, this is the life," is the thought that probably went through all our minds right then. Or in the case of the GIRL, perhaps, "Oh, good. Dora the Explorer will be on TV when I get home".

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