Around the world by bike
United Arab Emirates
(325km - 9days - 2 February - 10 February 2015)
2 February - Cape Town – Dubai (by plane)
It was an uneventful flight to Dubai via Doha, except for arriving in Dubai at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. Fortunately, there are some awesome people in this world, and Anton and Andre, friends of my friend, Lois, who lived in Oman at the time, collected me from the airport. I was extremely grateful to them as Dubai was rather expensive, and if it weren’t for them, it would have been a somewhat pricey start to the UAE. Once home, we chatted until 5 a.m. before finally retiring.
3 February - Dubai
As can be expected after our late night, we were somewhat slow in getting going. Dubai was no doubt the money capital of the world, and one had to be in awe of all money could buy. Just about everything was the biggest in the world, from shopping centres to aquariums. The water bus was a novel way of exploring the marina, and so was wandering around the famous Dubai Mall with its golden Souq and impressive aquarium. A stroll along the downtown area worked up an appetite, and a late lunch was had while watching the dancing fountains. The fountains were remarkable against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world (at the time). Then it was back home to watch a 3D movie, all while enjoying popcorn and a glass of wine. What a novel way to end a fabulous day in that world-famous city.
4 February - Dubai
Although awake slightly earlier than the previous day, it was half-past eleven after reassembling the bicycle. Then it was off to the local bike shop to purchase a few bits and bobs. Our next destination was Souq Madinat Jumeirah, where I was treated to 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 one could gain access to the top of her 83-storey building with a fantastic view of the city. Elvira ordered pizzas, and it was a sociable evening, and they made me feel like a member of the Royal family!
5 February - Dubai
Another day was spent in Dubai, and Anton and Andre drove me to the Miracle Garden, a fantastic flower garden where everything, including the buildings, was covered with plants and flowers. A remarkable feat in a desert country. Afterwards, it was off to the world-famous Palm Island with its rather expensive accommodation. Expensive or not, it wasn’t the place one wanted to be in case of a tsunami. Hunger pains drove us to the excellent Carluccio's restaurant with its authentic Italian cuisine.
Our next stop was at the metro station where, to my surprise, one could board a driverless train. Our driverless train scooted us off to our next destination, the Spice and Gold Souq. On our way home, Carrefour made for convenient shopping to pick up the necessary ingredients as Anton planned on making a traditional Uzbek dish (plov).
It was yet another fascinating day in the city of Dubai. As always, the longer I stayed, the more interesting it became.
6 February - Dubai – Al Rama - 100 km
It was rather pleasant to be back on the bike. A big smile crossed my face cycling off along the highway doing one of my most favourite things, which was cycling off in a direction I wasn’t quite sure where it would lead. I was extremely thankful to Anton and Andre, who gave me a bed, fed me and carted me all over Dubai. There are amazing people in this world, and I felt lucky to have met some of them. The warnings about the drivers in Dubai had me slightly concerned about my safety on the road. Excellent wide highways and fast cars aren’t always the best place to cycle. It, therefore, came as a surprise to find vehicles slowing down and even waving me across a busy highway. Maybe it was out of sheer amazement to see a woman on a bicycle.
My route followed the dead boring and mind-numbing road to Abu Dhabi, a massive 4-lane highway. At least there were plenty of petrol stations along the way, and not one was passed without stopping. At each one, there were long conversations with locals, all enquiring about origin and destination, followed by the inevitable photo shoot. With me leaving Dubai late and with all the stopping and chatting, the sun soon started dipping towards the horizon. It was still winter, and the sun disappeared at around 6 o'clock. Al Raga was the next place along the road, which had a costly but convenient room for the night.
7 February - Al Rama – Abu Dhabi - 40 km
It was a short ride into the UAE's big and busy capital city of Abu Dhabi. The trip was even shorter than anticipated, as just before the city centre the highway spat me out in the fast lane with no way of getting back across the road to the right-hand side. Eventually, police helped me across, and two kind Samaritans stopped and gave me a lift into town. Good thing too, as the police didn’t want to let me go and only once they saw all of us in the car did they drive off. The GPS on my phone didn’t work without the SIM card, and as it was my only form of navigation, I went in search of a local SIM. On my way back, I picked up shawarma and a few samosas for only a few dirhams.
8 February - Abu Dhabi – Ramah rest area - 125 km
My first stop of the day was at the imposing Grant Mosque for a photo, and then it was back on the road leading to Oman. At first, the plan was to only cycle halfway to the border, but there was no convenient camping. Nothing of interest happened along the way and, once again, it was good to have service stations to break the monotony. They made convenient places for filling up with water and snacks, and chewing on something while riding kept me occupied. It was after dark before arriving at the Ramah rest area. The light Andre gifted me came in handy, and what a usable light it was. Being a flashing solar light which automatically came on in low light, it was just the thing one needed for cycle touring.
9-10 February - Ramah rest area – Al Ain - 60 km
The ride to Al Ain was straight into the wind and, as always, there wasn’t anything one could do about it. I put my head down and put the bicycle in a comfortable gear and soldiered on. There was honestly nothing happening along the way; even the service stations weren’t equipped with shops for buying snacks or drinks. Out of the blue, a local chap stopped and gave me a small souvenir. Completely gobsmacked I wonder if I ever thanked him. It was after midday that Al Ain Oasis rolled into view.
It was still early and, once in a room, there was more than enough time to visit the nearby Al Ain Oasis with its labyrinthine of cobbled streets. The entire area was walled and inside the oasis was fitted with an ancient underground irrigation system dating back thousands of years. With nearly 150,000 date palms within the walled area, it was a relaxed and shady walk. Shwarma and samosas from the cafeteria, once again, made for a quick supper.
There were several things to see in Al Ain, which made it a great place to spend the following day. The Palace Museum was fascinating, and then it was off 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 a natural choice.
The Carrefour supermarket was a super place for stocking up, and as the camel market was just behind the shopping centre, it made for easy visiting before returning to my very comfortable abode. For the third night in a row, it was falafel and more samosas before turning in.