2 February - Cape Town – Dubai (by plane)
It was finally time to get my ass into gear and head for the Arabian Peninsula. It was an uneventful flight to Doha where I had a connecting flight to Dubai. I arrived in Dubai at the ungodly hour of 3h00. Fortunately, there are some awesome people in the world and I was collected at the airport by Anton and Andre, friends of Lois living in Dubai. I was extremely grateful to them as Dubai is a rather expensive place and if it were not for them I would have had a rather pricey start to the UAE. We sat chatting until 5h00 before we finally decided to call it a day.
3 February - Dubai
We slept rather late and we were slow to get going after our late night. Dubai is no doubt the money capital of the world. I was in awe of what money can buy!! Just about everything is the biggest in the world, from shopping centers to aquariums! We took the water bus in the marina and wandered around the famous Dubai Mall with its golden souq and awesome aquarium. We walked along the downtown area and had a late lunch watching the dancing fountains. I thought the fountains were rather impressive against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa, currently the highest building in the world. Then we went back home where we had popcorn and wine while watching a 3D movie.
4 February - Dubai
Although we got up a bit earlier than the previous day, it was still 11h30 before we got out of the house because I had to first put my bicycle back together again. First, we were off to the local bike shop where I had to buy a few bits and bobs. Our next destination was Souq Madinat Jumeirah where we had a canal side lunch at the Noodle House with a view of the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. Afterwards, we paid a visit to Elvira, a friend of Anton and Andre, where we went to the top of her 83-storey building with an amazing view over the city. Elvira ordered pizzas and we sat chatting before returning home. I lived liked a member of the Royal family!!
5 February - Dubai
I decided to stay one more day, so off we went to the Miracle Garden, a fantastic flower garden. Afterwards, we took a drive to the world famous Palm Island with its rather expensive accommodation. Expensive or not it is not the place one wants to be when there is a tsunami!!! By that time we were hungry again, so we went in search of food which we found at Carluccio's. Wow, what fantastic food that was!!!
Our next stop was at the metro station where, to my surprise, we boarded a metro which was driverless!! Our driverless train zooted us off to our next destination - The Spice and Gold Souq. On our way home we stopped at Carrefour to do some shopping as Anton planned to make us a traditional Uzbek dish (plov). Did I mention that Anton is from Uzbekistan?
Another day in the fascinating city of Dubai…… As always, the longer I stayed, the more interesting it became.
6 February -Dubai – Al Rama - 100 km
It was rather good to be back on the bike and I giggled as I set off down the highway. I was extremely thankful to Anton and Andre, who gave me a bed, fed me and carted me around all over Dubai. There are just such amazing people in the world. I was warned about the drivers in Dubai and was a bit worried about the traffic. Good and wide highways and fast cars are not always the best place to cycle. I was, however, surprised that the cars actually slowed down and waved me across a busy highway! It must have been out of sheer amazement to see a woman on a bicycle!!
I followed the dead boring and mind numbing road to Abu Dhabi, a large 4-lane highway. At least there were plenty of petrol stations along the way and I did not pass one by. At each one, I had long conversations with the locals, all inquiring where I was heading and where I was from, followed by the inevitable photo shoot. With me leaving Dubai late and with all the stopping and chatting I did not get very far before the sun started dipping towards the horizon. It is still winter and the sun goes down at around 18h00. I pulled into Al Raga, found a very expensive room and settled in for the night.
7 February - Al Rama – Abu Dhabi - 40 km
It was a short ride into the big and busy city of Abu Dhabi. The ride was even shorter than anticipated, as just before the city centre I somehow found myself in the fast lane and could not get back across the road to the right-hand lane. Eventually, the police helped me across and then two friendly Samaritans stopped and gave me a lift into town. Good thing too they were there, as the police did not want to let me go and only once they saw that I was in the car did they drive off. I went in search of a local sim card as the GPS on my phone did not work without the sim card and it was my only map. On my way back, I got myself a nice shawarma and a few samosas for just a few Dirhams.
8 February - Abu Dhabi – Ramah rest area -125 km
I first stopped at the imposing Grant Mosque for a photo and then got on the road leading to Oman. I planned only to go halfway to the border but could not find easy camping along the way. There was nothing happening along the road and, once again, I was happy for the service stations along the way to break the monotony. I stopped at each and everyone for some water and snacks; not that I was hungry but chewing on something while riding kept me busy. It was after dark that I finally arrived at the Ramah rest area. I was pleased that I had the light Andre gave me, and what a nice light it was. It was a flashing solar light which came on in low light, just the thing I needed.
9 & 10 February - Ramah rest area – Al Ain - 60 km
I headed straight into the wind and, as always, there was nothing I could do about it. I put my head down and put the bicycle in an easy gear and soldiered on. There was truly nothing happening along the way, even the service stations stopped having shops where I could buy a snack or drink. Along the way, a local stopped and gave me a small souvenir - how nice of him. Needless to say, I was happy to reach the Al Ain oasis.
After booking into a room, I took a walk to the nearby Al Ain Oasis with its labyrinthine of cobbled streets. The entire area is walled and inside the oasis is fitted with an ancient underground irrigation system dating back thousands of years. There are nearly 150,000 date palms within the walled area, making for a cool and shady walk. I once again got myself a shawarma and samosas from the cafeteria around the corner.
I also decided to stay the following day as there were quite a few things to see. First thing in the morning I visited the Palace Museum and then went in search of the old fort. Al Jahili Fort was constructed in 1891, both as a fort and a summer resident for Sheikh Zayed the First. It was customary in those days for Abu Dhabi leaders to escape the coastal humidity in summer for the dryer climate of Al Ain. The fact that there was also an oasis with plenty of water must have made it an easy choice.
My last visit was a turn at the Carrefour supermarket for a few things, and as the camel market was just behind the shopping centre I visited that as well before returning to my very comfortable room. I could not resist picking up a falafel and more samosas before turning in.