As our trip draws to a close, what better way to top what we’ve done so far by getting out of town? Dubai is but one of seven Emirates, but by no means does Dubai represent what the UAE is like in general. Friday would be a day we saw the rest of the country. But first, we got something to eat at Burger King. Bean Royale anyone?
Before we got on with the long road trip, we came across Sharjah Institute of Technology [I won’t say the acronym joke] and University City Hall. They would be the last modern looking structures for many, many miles. Many, many, many miles as we drove into the deserts.
We decided to head east, cutting through Sharjah en route to Fujeirah. The road to the Indian Ocean was about what I was expecting from a desert country. All desert. Even saw some real camels roaming the sands. Miles and miles of road surrounded by miles and miles of desert. Well, until we reached the mountains.
In contrast to Dubai and Abu Dubai, there weren’t forests of skyscrapers this side of the country. Fujeirah is building them in its downtown, but for the most part, this is what the UAE looks like when not posing for a postcard.
The entire country is slowly evolving into a modern state everywhere. To make room for the new, the old is being phased out. Stephen explained the gas stations are updating their look. They look like gas stations [called petrol stations out here] back home, but this is the original look that one day may be no longer…
I had to use the restroom. Stephen suggested I waited until we got somewhere less remote, but, really, I had to go. He warned me it’s not like what I’m used to. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about; there are plenty of restrooms in America where all the inconsiderate and disgusting people go all the time. I mean bathrooms that need to be wrapped in tape warning of contamination with toxic fumes and feces. But when I stepped into a restroom in the middle of nowhere…
Luckily I only had to do number one. Then it was back on the road.
Did I mention that there are mosques everywhere? What about power lines?
And that Emiratis love their country?
We picked a resort on the Indian Ocean as a place to rest, change the little ones’ diapers, grab a bite and turn around. The place is called the Meridien. And as soon as you enter the grounds, you’d think you were in Europe. This must be where the expats hide out from the Arabs in an Arab country.
Al Bidya Mosque
On the way back towards civilization Dubai-style, we made a stop at the country’s first and oldest mosque. The Al Bidya Mosque.
Unlike the grand structures dotting the country, this one is, well, historic and historic-looking. The history of the Emirates belongs to the nomads. They didn’t build the types of cities which turn into ruins centuries later like in the rest of the Middle East. This is about as close to ruins as you’re going to find [at least the closest we could find].
There are some steps that lead to some structures on the hill. The view up there of the surrounding area is pretty cool. Serene. Not sure if it was because being at a religious historical site or away from the gluttony of skyscrapers, but there’s a sense of peace you don’t feel in the madness of the city.
In respect to where we were, and because everyone else was doing it. I took off my Tims. When I got into the tower-looking structure, there were some foreigners up there, from India, who spoke no English and avoided me like the plague. Actually everyone did. I wasn’t sure if it was obvious I wasn’t Muslim, it was obvious I was very, very, very foreign or just my imagination. Probably all of the above.
But, what the hell [I mean, heck]. I asked someone to take a picture of me. Then asked if they wanted to get in the picture. There was some hesitation. Then apprehension on my part of what they were thinking. Then they all started smiling, saying “American! American!” while shaking my hand over and over and positioning themselves to get in the picture.
I felt like a celebrity. And then the designated photographer insisted on getting his photo with the “American!”
On the way back to Dubai, we stopped by a candy store to get some Arabic sweets. From the outside, none of the little establishments on the side of the roads outside of Dubai and Abu Dhabi looks like much. Very old-looking. Sometimes sketchy.
Inside Fuala, though, it was obvious you can’t judge them by the cover. They treated chocolate as delicately and with as much respect as the Japanese do their sushi and Washingtonians do their half-smokes.
We get on the road and in front of us is a bus. Stephen pointed out who runs the Sharjah Transport bus service. King Long. Wow — what a name…
We then stopped by one of the many markets that line the roads. Think of a fruit. They have it. And it probably ust got picked, plucked or uprooted that day.
Nduku wanted me to get her something to eat, so I wandered down to Naza Cafeteria. You want to talk about two people with a communication problem. We understood not one single word the other said to eat other. I was asking if he had a menu. Or at least flat bread. Bread in general. I think he thought I was asking for the restroom. But I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Maybe he was saying, “I don’t have a menu. Or flat bread. Or bread in general!”
Then again, looking around. I should’ve figured out we were not in Burger King anymore. He held something up and I said I’d take two of them. So he reached into the refrigerator [a standard, not commercial, fridge] and pulled out a box you can find in the grocery store and it looked like frozen chicken patties. Not quite authentic, indigenous or delicious-looking, but whatever.
He then said something in some language. Seeing my face looking back at him as if he didn’t say a single thing, he held up a piece of lettuce. I nodded. We were getting somewhere. He held up an onion. I nodded. He held up both hands, fingers out; I took it to mean 10 minutes.
If Nduku saw how this cafeteria looked, maybe she wouldn’t have wanted it. Actually, I don’t even think she finished it.
So while I waited, there were these Arab teens spying me. I was spying them. I pulled out my camera and asked if they wanted to take a picture. They were more enthused than the Indians at the mosque!
What a day. We were so beat from the road trip we went straight to sleep. Tomorrow would be our last day but after today, my wanderlust was satisfied.