On the evening of Wednesday, October 9th, Rebecca and I picked up my mom and her partner, Vern, from the airport. They had traveled from Calgary with an overnight stop in Toronto. We were excited to have our first visitors after a long, hot summer.
I took the next day off work and the 3 of us headed to Yas Links Golf Course. The temperature and the challenge of a links style course did not help to keep our scores low, but I think it helps to beat the jet lag to get out there and get busy.
The next morning, we all set off for Musandam, an exclave of Oman proper that is separated by the UAE. It occupies the tip of the peninsula that forms the Strait of Hormuz and it is only 40 kilometers to Iran. Interesting fact…20% of the world’s oil production passes through these waters. We drove through Dubai and some of the other emirates on our way to the Omani border. We passed through the border with no problems and then the landscape changed dramatically. The border between the UAE and Oman is naturally formed by the Hajar Mountains. It was a very scenic drive from the border to our final destination, the town of Khasab. We checked into our hotel, had a nice lunch, then hit the pool and seaside.
On Saturday, we had organized a dhow cruise. We checked out of the hotel, met the tour operator, and followed him to the port. We boarded a double-decker dhow and settled in with the other passengers. The dhow set off along the coast and we soon turned in to an inlet. Musandam is known for its rugged and mountainous coastline fjords. We cruised along until we spotted some dolphins and they were soon running alongside the dhow catching the wake. We then stopped for about an hour at a nice, calm spot to snorkel. I had to do a dive from the top deck of the boat and, once I did, everyone else seemed to want to as well. It was then time to turn back and head for port. We loaded up the car and by that evening had made it back safely to Abu Dhabi.
The upcoming week was Eid al Adha, a special Islamic celebration. Rebecca would have to work Sunday and Thursday, but I was given the entire week off. So on Sunday, Mom, Vern, and I decided to join an organized tour of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Although I had been to the mosque before, I had never joined the free tour. Our guide, Ali, was very good and a bit of a joker. Once back at our apartment complex, we went up to Observation Deck at 300, which is on the 74th floor of our building and is 300 m above ground level. We had a coffee and some excellent desserts while enjoying the 360 degree views of Abu Dhabi at sunset.
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Monday and Rebecca’s cousin and his wife joined us as well. We had plenty of turkey buns and turkey soup to get us through the next few days.
The next day, we popped up to Yas Island and went for a bike ride around the Yas Marina Circuit. Unfortunately, this would be the closest Vern would come to racing on the track, which is normally possible, but had been temporarily suspended due to the upcoming F1 race happening this weekend. That night, we took Mom and Vern to one of our favorite dinner spots in Abu Dhabi, The Belgian Café.
On Wednesday, we went down to the Corniche and hit the beach for a few hours. The water was a nice temperature and even Vern got in for a float. That night, we all went up to Al Forsan International Sports Resort where Vern and I did 2 fifteen minute sessions on the 1.2 km track in our 270cc karts. They were definitely the fastest karts I’d ever been on and Vern and I gave the other racers a good schooling.
With Rebecca back to work on Thursday, Vern, Judy, and I set out to Big Red, a large sand dune on the Dubai-Hatta Road. Before they arrived, Vern had expressed interest in finding a place to dune buggy and I was told by some friends that this was the place to go. Once we were there and scoping out the various rental outfits, something caught Vern’s eye. It was an 8-seater dune buggy with a turbo-charged 350 Corvette engine on the back and big, scoop-like tires. We did not take this out, but it led us to find a new 4-seater Polaris Razor 900. After a little negotiation, the 3 of us set out into the dunes with Vern behind the wheel, myself in shotgun, and Jude in the back. After 5 minutes of bashing through the dunes, Mom was ready to head back to base. After that, Vern and I were off for the next hour taking turns driving and pushing each other out when we got high centered on a dune. Vern sent us sailing over the top of a dune and nose-diving into the sand which covered us from head to toe and I tipped the damn thing near the end of our trip. We managed to climb out, get it righted, and re-started. Needless to say, I let Vern drive us back. While we were out on the dunes, Mom spotted a few camels at the rental shop so her and Vern took a little ride on the camel. After shaking off most of the sand and a quick turkey bun, we were headed back to Abu Dhabi.
We all decided that we needed a bit of a down day on Friday, so we relaxed by the pool, read our books, and just hung out most of the day. That night, the 3 of us played the 9 hole Garden Course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It’s a floodlit course so we teed off at 6:00 pm just as the sun was going down. I think Mom and Vern found the temperature more bearable than our round at Yas Links.
On Saturday, we made our way to Dubai. We stopped at the Mall of the Emirates to check out Ski Dubai and had lunch at the Shake Shack. Then, we drove by the Burj al Arab Hotel and out onto the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis Hotel. From there, we went to Dubai Mall, grabbed a Tim’s, and headed for the tour of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. After the tour, we popped over to the Souq al Behar to check out some Arabic artwork, rugs, and incense. It was then time for our boat ride around the Dubai Mall Pond. It was timed to catch the huge watershow that is done every night. After the boat ride, we picked a nice alfresco Lebanese restaurant along the waterfront. We got Mom and Vern to try some new things, but I think their favorite was trying shisha after dinner. While walking through the mall after dinner, we stopped at the aquarium and then spotted a falcon which Mom and Vern got to hold. We were soon on the road to Abu Dhabi after an action packed day.
The next few days saw Mom and Vern on their own as Rebecca and I were back at work. They visited Heritage Village, walked along the Corniche, and Mom did a little shopping at Marina Mall. On their last night, Mom and Vern treated us to a nice dinner at Nahaam at the Jumeirah Hotel next door. Although a few days early, we celebrated Mom’s birthday that night as well.
We were really lucky to have so much time off work to spend with Mom and Vern and really enjoyed our visit with them. I think they liked experiencing a different culture and trying new things. Mom left us with a quote by Samuel Johnson her father shared with her a long time ago, “The use of traveling is to regulate the imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”