Thursday 25th January
There is now two days off from the competition, and I decided to head to Dubai. I had contacted the U.A.E. youth hostel association sometime in November enquiring about availability, but heard nothing until one week before I left. A short note confirmed that I had two nights booked in the Sharjah youth hostel, all for a princely sum of £5 a night. Bearing in mind that accomodation that I was looking at was costing £100 a night it was too good an offer. Next problem. Where is Sharjah. Well it appears to be an extension of Dubai, as it lies some 30 minutes up the coast and it is also the third largest Emirate.
Taking a local minibus took two hours to get from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah, the route passed directly through Dubai, which is marked by various landmarks. The first to stand out was the Hard Rock Cafe, with two giant guitars providing an arched entrance to the building. Then there was the Burj al Arab, the 7 star hotel in the shape of a typical sailing boat. Some time later I spotted the Emirates Towers. This mass of buildings went on for some time and continued all the way to Sharjah. Arriving at the Bus station I immediately asked a taxi driver to take me to the Youth Hostel. He didn’t know where it was. I walked into the centre and asked two more drivers before I found one willing to try to take me there.
It appeared to be well out of town and I noticed it was on the way to Ajman (The next Emirate up the coast). Having arrived at the hostel, my reason for being there was questioned and I was reluctantly given a bed, but told that I may have to move. I assumed this meant moving room which was no problem. Now settled in I had to decide what to do. There was a rumour that there was some football on! As I was on the road to Ajman I decided to go there, it is described as the smallest of the Emirates, (so it must be smaller than Ashburton Grove) My guide book once again directed me to a fort which had been turned into a museum. It even said it was well worth the visit from Dubai. Alas I got there and it was closed. So Next Emirate up the coast was Umm al Quiwam. So off I went. Now here, I believed the 2nd division team Al Arabi played. I asked the taxi driver to take me to the Al Arabi football club. Not knowing for sure if I was doing the right thing. He didn’t have a clue, but headed off and then as we got close asked directions. I was pleased to see that he was also sent around the houses, but we got there.
Entering the main office I enquired about that afternoons game and sure enough was told that it would kick off around 5. Result.
So off I went into town, very quiet, something to eat and a pleasant stroll along the waterfront.
Home team won 4-1 in front of around 80, and yes, it was free.
I had heard that there was camel racing the following morning but couldn’t find anyone to confirm this for me as it was supposed to be a 7.30 (in the morning) start I decided not to chance it.
Friday 26th January
However I was still up early and was in Dubai for 8 a.m. Arriving in Deira I quickly found the water taxi stand and joined the throng crossing the creek on the abra (motorised boat) I had read that week that the price had doubled and was sat between two characters who were determined to pay the old price. I was waiting for them to be thrown in the river, until after much bickering they paid up.
Immediately across the river lay Bastakia, an area which was in the process of being restored. It housed traders who came from Southern Iran in the early 1900s and the buildings included the first type of air conditioning with wind towers on the top of the buildings. I opted for the Bus tour of Dubai as I had already seen what a vast area the city covered, and so off I went to survey the metropolis from the top of a London double decker, but the sights mainly consisted of large shopping malls and luxury hotels. After four hours of this I had, had enough.
So I decided to head up to Ras Al Khaimah, couldn’t find the bus from Dubai so I caught one to Sharjah as I knew it was on the way and I had seen busses leaving from the bus station I arrived at.
When I got to Sharjah I arrived at a completely different place. So I jumped in a taxi and asked him to take me to the bus station. 20 minutes later and I was at a remote point out of town at the long distance taxi stand. It was now 2.45p.m. I arrived and informed the locals where I wanted to go they ignored me and filled up a car in front of me and everyone drove off. Aaaargh!
So I was first in the queue for the next taxi to depart. This took another three quarters of an hour. I was by now thinking about giving up. Anyway we made our way further north and as I left an outpost of Sharjah I arrived at one in Ras Al Khamiah, I had been talking to one of the passengers and explained where I was going. He ushered me into a taxi with him and we waited while this filled up. Once full we headed into town a good ten minutes passed before we saw signs of life. We then proceeded to drop the others off, as travelled around I looked for any sign of a stadium. By now all the other passengers had been dropped off. The driver queried where I was going for at least the third time. I was adamant I was going to Ras Al Khamiah football club. He asked if I knew where it was!
After asking a couple of people he headed off down a dirt track. Eventually i could see floodlights and a stadium. And, other cars parked outside. Another result.
The locals had their own M.C. and a sound system. Which I blame for giving me a headache the next day. The game finished 1-1 with the visitors equalising with the last touch of the game.
Coming out of the game I started to walk down the dusty road, when a local Emirati stopped and asked me where I was going. He kindly gave me a lift to the out of town taxi stand. An interesting ride as he displayed all the driving skills of a playstation pro!