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Monday, February 1, 2010

Some Other Sides of Abu Dhabi-Part 1

For some reason, folks living outside of the UAE. are rarely given a balanced impression of the place by the international media. All they hear about are Bentleys and Beyonce, Mercedes and Madonna, Ferraris and Federer...well, you get the idea.

But there are other sides of Abu Dhabi that are rarely mentioned. Just outside of the city are spectacular natural phenomenon that are not to be missed. On one hand, there are the beautiful, wind sculpted sand dunes. Never has barren been so mysterious and enchanting. In close proximity is the Arabian (never called Persian by those who live here) Gulf. The Gulf is a gentle, warm, sparkling clear body of water that laps against the Abu Dhabi coastline.

There are even mountains a few hours drive away from Abu Dhabi in the Northern Emirates of Ras Al Khemah and Fujerah. Southern California has nothing on this place. it is all here!


Abu Dhabi Dunes

Arabian Gull Coastal Waters

I consider myself a good judge of beaches as I grew up in Florida, USA and the beaches here rival anything I have seen in my home state. The color of the water and quality of the sand is world class!

I had the good luck last week to be invited on a sea kayaking expedition to some mangrove areas just a few minutes from the main Abu Dhabi-Dubai thoroughfare. My host, "Il Capitano" is a coworker from Rome that just bought a sea kayak and wanted to take it on its first sea trials.

The craft was a large two seater and I suspect that he called me not because of my engaging personality as much as my availability as a second propulsion unit and an additional pair of arms to help lift the vessel off the roof  rack of his SUV.

After meeting up, we drove to a nearby 5 star resort hotel to launch the boat. I asked "Il Capitano" if we had permission from said resort owners to trespass on their private property and flounder around with the kayak in  front of their well-heeled guests. He assured me that he had talked to a security guard previously and was told "No problem".

The retrieval of the boat from the rather high roof of the SUV was unfortunately a portent of more serious troubles. While holding the bow of the kayak in my upstretched arms in the attempt to free it from the roof rack, it suddenly turned upright and I lost grip on the slippery polyethylene surface and it came down hard on my chin, bounced off my forearm and removed some skin from my thumb. The boat was unharmed from its resulting bounce on the asphalt parking lot due to my personal sacrifice. I was not so fortunate. Another scar, another story.
Pre-launch, pre-injury and pre-security guy.

After assessing my wounds, I decided they were not fatal to the mission. We began to unload gear from the car and then we saw him, the dreaded "guy in a dark jacket with a walkie talkie" and he was heading straight toward us. He asked us just what the hell we thought we were doing and wondered aloud about our status as guests of the resort. "Il Capitano" tried to explain the earlier positive agreement he had with the other employee.  Our new nemesis was hearing nothing of it and when he got off the radio, he said we must clear our launching with hotel management.

After a couple of shrugs, Il Capitano was escorted inside by the walkie talkie guy. I sat down on a bench and thought this had been a waste of time. We were about to be kicked out. After a very long time in which I was considering repacking the gear into the SUV to save time for the inevitable, Il Capitano emerged from the office with a more ominous looking security guard with an even bigger walkie talkie. This was not good. As they approached I did the thumbs-up sign and Il Capitano returned it. We were in!

It turns out that the negotiations spanned 4 levels of management before someone was found that had the authority to say "yes". I had feared that Il Capitano displayed his Italian temper to the wrong person and had been detained by hotel personnel for turnover to Abu Dhabi's Finest and would be spending a few days in an uncomfortable downtown "cooler" before an appointment with a Sharia Law Judge. That's OK, at least I had taxi fare.

Such was not the case and the Black Jacketed Big Walkie Talkie Guy smoked a cigarette in defeat and idly watched us as we packed up the gear and carried the kayak to the beach in preparation for the maiden launch.


My next installment will describe the cool stuff we discovered underway and at a mangrove area. Unfortunately we weren't done with the security guard stuff either as we found out later. Stay tuned.


anna-lou said...


I found your blog doing some research on Abu Dhabi, and I must say that your articles and photos are interesting !

I am a young French student, 20 years old, I live in French Alps. I'm going to Abu Dhabi from March 29 to June 21, 2010, to do an internship in the Lycee Louis Massignon (french school). You know? I'm looking for cool people in Abu Dhabi, to feel me less "lost" in this great (and huge) city!

Maybe you could help me to find a roomate, or a nice people to host me for the month of April (I found for May and June)! And maybe you could tell me about life in Abu Dhabi ...

Thank you in advance for your help.

See you soon


Dave said...

I need to start blogging again.... steady ACE...

Neil Roberts said...

Man, Ace...why don't I ever get comments like that!!!

anna-lou said...

You're kidding isn't it ? :)

I'm just looking for helpful people... Not old men ! (I'm jocking too)

Neil Roberts said...

n'est pas doesn't always translate as "isn't it", in your context it should be "aren't you" ...... I"m only joking too (!) , your english is better than my French! Good luck with your trip, you will enjoy it!

anna-lou said...

Thank you professor :)

Ace said...

anna-lou, I would be happy to help you prepare for your stay in Abu Dhabi and show you around the city.

Click on my picture above the "Followers" box in the blog to send me a message or add me as a friend.

Ace said...

Dave, shame on you......JK ;)!
Yeah, you need to start blogging again.

Neil, I had no idea you knew the French language!

Mohammed said...

Why blame international media, when local media dont mention such "hidden gems" sort of stuff as well?

Ace said...

Mohammed, your point is well taken!
I believe both the local and world media have overlooked the natural beauty of the UAE.

It seems all that is promoted is the glitz and glamour and many residents and visitors alike miss the "other side" of the country.

捷運 said...

珍惜當下..活在當下..祝大家都平平安安健健康康! ..................................................

Ace said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts, wishes and advice!

Muhammad Amjad said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts, you are so well.wishes and advice!

Abu dhabi tourism