During our recent vacation in Dubai, we traversed more kilometres of desert than Lawrence of Arabia and his fleet of camels put together. We were mostly going around in circles.
We are always on the road. Not on camels, thankfully, but in air-conditioned vehicles. We were headed for destinations of fun – a desert safari, or a water park, or a snow park. After alighting from the vehicle, were on foot, jostling to enter to claim our share of fun. Then we were waiting in queues to get onto rides that would help us cover some more distance without reaching us anywhere. When the day was done, there was some more walking and driving needed before we called it a day.
The holiday began with our host offering, graciously, to drive us to the Miracle gardens that were three kilometres from the house. It took us around half an hour to reach. After circling the area like a hawk with dementia over and over again: we were not able to take the correct exit from the highway. Our host and now driver blamed the roads. He had a point there. Actually, it is rather tough to distinguish one stretch of land from another. There are hardly any landmarks to rely on. Just expanses of sand and the occasional sprout of bristly bushes.
To make things worse, his GPS lady had stopped talking. Maybe he hadn’t got her flowers in a long time. So, there we were circling the area, seeing our destination multiple times but not knowing how to reach it unless we broke into a short flight. To make our travel interesting, our host shared information tourists enjoy. The only problem was that his caché of information was very limited.
‘See, that is Burj Khalifa’ can be an exciting but if done five times in a span of thirty minutes it just sends the kids in an flurry of incredulous giggles.
Then he pointed to his left and showed us ‘Media City’.
We asked him what it was about. He said, ‘That is where media stuff is done.’
Clearly he wasn’t the one who’d light candles of knowledge for us, so we just nodded politely and did not ask any more questions. Well, we finally made it to the Miracle Gardens, which seemed like a miracle in itself. The children clapped.
We were back in action the very next day. It was to go to Abu Dhabi to visit Ferrari World and the Grand Mosque. This time our ride was a van and the driver a pathan-suit clad Pathan. Now, Bollywood movies have taught us how reliable Pathans are. Even before you need them, they show up at your doorsteps executing clumsy Pathan dance steps with handkerchiefs tied to their wrists, as taught to us by Pran-saab. Except our Pathan did not show up at 8:00 a.m. Neither at 9:00. The kids were getting restless. All five of them. We now needed an army of Pathans to calm them.
Finally Yunus showed up at 10:00 a.m. and we embarked on a long drive to Abu Dhabi. On the way, we showed the kids the Burj Khalifa one more time. Thankfully, they are still smaller than us in size and hence only protested only mildly and vocally.
Now the problem with starting a sight-seeing day late is that you get stuck in queues. We were at Ferrari World for 6 hours, out of which 13 minutes was on actual rides. The rest was in queues for the rides, for the toilets, for the food, and in the queue to find out which queue we needed to get in next. The 6D show had a waiting time of 75 minutes. We engaged the kids with whatever tricks we could collectively pool in – a card trick (without cards, hence made no sense), a tickling competition, a sneezing-without-closing-eyes challenge and so on. But, our talents and physical strength both were completely depleted in 15 minutes. So we went back to traditional parenting – scolding them and comparing them with other kids who were quieter to shame them.
The day ended with us having to cancel the trip to Grand Mosque and getting back into our van and making the long trip back.
The next journey was a long and arduous one in the desert was inside Snow Park at the Mall of Emirates. We were managing five kids. All dressed in identical overalls provided by the park. I spent most of the time roaming around, my frozen eyeballs searching for kids that looked like ours. I was tired and frost-bitten by the time I found two of them. We headed off to buy hot chocolate, the prices of which made my eyeballs pop out and plop into the marshmallows floating in the drink. With the two girls now retrieved and warmed, I set out to look for the boys. In that process, I lost the two girls again. When I could take it no more, I limped out like a hypothermic Big-foot in my oversized boots. The group was there, all changed and warm, sitting around discarded overalls and boots.
I was wiser now. The next day, at the Wild Wadi water park, I decided to do my own thing. The kids were instructed to break out in pairs, take whichever rides they wanted to and re-assemble near the tipping bucket when done. I had the most delicious moments of peace and calm lolling atop an inflated swim ring floating in the lazy river. I almost fell asleep. Till my vessel hit the water cascade at the end of the ride and rinsed my brains out.
The ride was so gentle and nice. I needed another round, this time avoiding the waterfall!
So I got into the queue again. Without the chatter of the kids, and warm and somnolent under the sun, I did not realize that I was in the wrong queue. It was just after I was comfortably ensconced in the swim ring and pushed towards a gush of angry water rising upwards in the chute, did I realize that I was on a ride of fury. The next few seconds were in this ride that tore around the park like a rabid hare. At some turns, I felt I’d eject out of my seat and land on the road below. I screamed and cursed. And then, phew, it was over. I had enjoyed but a few seconds of calm before the ring started floating towards a dark chute labelled ‘Tunnel of Doom’. That was it! I yelled out to the attendants,
‘I don’t want to go in there. Get me off. Get me off’.
I frantically waved my arms and legs that stuck out like stumps from the swim ring till I was rescued.
So, we were now done with the holiday. The final ride was the aeroplane back home. We reached the airport well in time, lugging our suitcases and got into the check-in queue. It moved quickly. But, we were stuck at the counter. We were made to wait for a long, long time before we were told that the flight was over-booked.
‘If you volunteer to go by tomorrow’s flight, we will give you free stay and a ticket to come back to
Dubai in the coming year.’
I think salt water had gone to our brains. We refused.
And that is how we came back. We are still wondering how we could have turned down such a
mouth-watering offer. Some rides are just meant to be, I guess.
Pix: By author
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