Saturday, March 10, 2007

Off to Doha again...

It's been a tiring weekend. I'll tell you more about it when I get back from Doha on Monday night.

Update: Got to the airport this morning and was bumped off my early morning Emirates flight to the early afternoon one. Ho-hum. The nice Emirates man said it was really busy today and they had loads of people being bumped. I suppose that's the risk when they over-book the flights.

So, while I'm waiting to go back to the airport, I can expand on the weekend.

Yesterday we decided to try the Dreamland Aqua Park over in Umm Al Qwain (sorry if that's not the right spelling). We've already done Wild Wadi, and a friend of mine (who we shall call the GEORDIE) told me it was nicer at Dreamland. Nicer, much cheaper, and best of all... they sell alcohol.

So on Saturday morning we set off, with the GEORDIE and his GEORDIE BOY coming along for the ride, and drove along the Emirates Road, passing through the delights of Sharjah and Ajman on the way, and after an hour or so we arrived at Dreamland, which sits next to a lagoon. You know you're nearly there when you see a giant, ancient Russian cargo plane casually abandoned on the side of the road. I looked for POLICE ARE AWARE stickers, but I don't think they could reach the windscreen. The BOY and the GEORDIE BOY spent the whole journey annoying each other and the other passengers with dog impressions, pillow fights and truck-spotting contests, so it was relief to arrive and emerge from the car into the warm sunshine.

In the park itself, it soon became apparent why it is cheaper than Wild Wadi. It is much, much older, and it shows. The metal grates in some of the pools are spotted with rust, the grout in between the tiles is somewhat grubby, and the slides and other playthings are faded and worn. That said, it is a more pleasant area than Wild Wadi, with large green areas and plenty of loungers to soak up the sunshine on. It was also much quieter, with hardly any queues for even the major rides.

After a short play in the kiddies pool we had a lunch of cheap and nasty fast food. After that, the GEORDIE and I couldn't persaude our BOYs to join us in riding on anything higher than 6 feet off the ground. We tried bribery, blackmail, threats and just general cajoling, but to no avail. My BOY even climbed to the top of a ride ominously called the Black Hole. I knew he wasn't keen, but he was hoping for a large ice cream when he did it. He finally cracked at the sight of the pitch-dark tunnel. His soft whimpering turned into full-scale screaming and crying, and without any masking tape to hand, we had to come back down the stairs past people wearing smug, knowing smiles. In the end, the men had a few goes on the big slides, but soon tired of walking half a mile up a slope and some stairs to reach a ride that lasted all of ten seconds, and which invariably resulted in swimming shorts having to be surgically extracted from bumholes.

With the day drawing on, we decided to leave. The BOYs had a short session in the tatty, half-closed video arcade, playing a best-of-three round of air hockey, which my BOY won. GET IN! I'm not competitive really.

So we left Dreamland behind, and drove round the corner to the more adult-orientated attraction which everyone in Dubai talks of in fond terms, often with misty eyes: Barracuda. Barracuda is basically an off-licence, but the attraction is that it sells tax-free alcohol. It's a useful place to go when you need to stock up, so that's what I did. With visitors coming in less than 4 weeks, I used it as an excuse to go on a trolley dash round the spirits and wine section and equip myself with a half-decent drinks selection, including gin, whisky, vodka, bacardi, baileys and a few bottles of wine. The trolley-full of booze I left with cost me 700 dirhams, about 100 quid. It would probably have cost nearly twice as much in Dubai.

Then we drove through Sharjah, the dry Emirate, at quite a pace. I don't think there's a problem, but it's technically illegal to have booze there. Then again, Sharjah airport has a Duty Free section. Work that one out.

On the way home we stopped at the Irish Village, a Dubai expat institution, where a couple of pints of the black stuff and a bit of stodgy food rounded off the day. It's quite a pleasant location, with a lake and playpark and a massive terrace to sit and watch the world go by. It's situated right in the heart of Garhoud, and is a bit of an oasis. The standard pub food comes quickly, the bar staff are either surly or deaf, but it's popular and pleasant enough.

Well, that's the time used up. I'd better make my way back to the airport.


Taunted said...

That is not an attractive picture....

ann said...

If you're a wine lover, the Marina in Ajman (aka Hole in the Wall) is still tops.

The compact but well-organised shop has choices from about a dozen wine countries neatly and stylishly displayed. You can pick up a French table wine for Dhs15, and a damn fine Californian or South African bottle for Dhs 25 or 30. (Tax-free as well.) Spend more, and there are some even more superb choices.

Plus, word out is they treat their wines with more respect than Barracuda does, so that in mid-summer you're unlikely to open a spoiled wine, while at Barracuda it's likely to have been stored in a 45 degree warehouse.

The Travelling Through Sharjah problem is over-rated, in my opinion. Just drive safely and don't get into a bumper bashing. The police aren't exactly stopping people at random checking for wine being transported.

littejimmy said...

Thanks, ann. I kinda knew that the Sharjah stories had been exaggerated. I've even heard stories about people being blackmailed by gangs of feckless youths who threatened to crash into you if you didn't pay them some money.