A rare 3-day weekend granted from ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council), a mere 2 weeks after Spring Break, but I still felt a super charged need to get away again. Having just returned from a 2-week adventure, funds were low so I opted for a staycation or what passes as a staycation in the UAE (I left the city but not the country). Usually being car-less I end up going to Dubai and spending butt loads of money doing stuff I could have done in Abu Dhabi minus the hotel. This year however, my friends got cars and thus road trips were inevitably planned. Some friends have this UAE bucket list which includes going to all of the emirates and special locations around the country. For me, there were a few places I wanted to experience; Tilal Liwa, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. Having been to the first 2 on the list, it was finally time to drive out to Fujairah, a land of snorkeling and mountains. Everyone says the area is gorgeous, not to be missed spot in UAE. Off we went, Jackie, Maysa, Andrea, and I; Friday morning armed with snacks, some tunes, Google Maps, and water.
Fujairah is a northern emirate located next to Oman, a 2/12 hour drive, 10 hours of which is mostly desert and not the “oooh look at those magnificent dunes’ desert but more like ‘has the apocalypse begun?’ desert. When driving this route around the back side of Dubai, you have to get through the roundabout of death, but thankfully Maysa was driving this time and not Jackie, who nearly turned us into road kill on our way to Al Qudra Lakes desert camping. That’s another story though.
Eventually you come upon the red rocky mountains, characteristic of Oman and the Hajar mountains that run through Oman and creep into the UAE around Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. Nothing seems to grow on these rock piles, they are difficult to climb as rocks roll under foot and cut up your hands as you try to scramble up hill. The desert sand turns red here, it’s the ‘oooh look at those magnificent dunes’ desert, the sand creeps up the side of the mountain as if trying to overtake the rock formations. Here the sand seems to invade everything; sand drifts across the road, fences that once stood above the dunes have been swallowed up by the shifting landscape. The divide between jagged rock and soft sand is surreal with the brilliant blue sky bereft of cloud in the background. There is so much artificial beauty in the cities, it’s easy to forget that parts of the UAE are naturally stunning.
We see signs for Fujairah and a place called Kalba, which means dog in Arabic…which was confusing but entertaining. “Let’s go to Dog!” we yell…clearly we still have a few years left to mature.
Goats, goats, goats, more goats! Usually all you see of animal life are some stray cats and dogs, a desert fox and an occasional gazelle in the Dhabs but once you leave the city you see goats…so many cute little goats and of course camels…camels are so weird but you expect to see them. The goats though…are they wild, do they belong to anyone? Are they a food source, can you buy street goat kebabs out here like in Tanzania, is goat’s milk a thing? These are questions I feel I should know after living here for 3 years but I don’t because no one talks about the goats.
Around 1pm we arrive at our hotel on the main street, only to discover that we happened upon Fujairah’s annual bodybuilding competition and the hotel is teeming with be-muscled men. DELIGHTFUL!!!
Upon checking into our rooms at the Novotel we set about making a plan. If you google things to do in Fujairah, you will find out that on Friday afternoon, the city beach hosts a bull fight and an informal parade of people’s exotic pets (monkeys, lions, etc). Jackie and Maysa thought it was a must see but Andrea and I, not wanting to support the mistreatment of animals opted for the pool. We ordered Corona’s, found a quiet, shady spot (the sun was strong on the roof) and laid back ogling the bodybuilders.
Body builders are a particular breed of narcissist, people who spend SO much time on their body to the point of self-inflicted near deformity; overly built, overly groomed, sporting fake tans. Strutting around the pool posing for each other either practicing or posturing, in their tiny bathing suits, which leaves little to the imagination but little for the imagination to play with.
Room service food at Novotel is surprisingly delicious, we order beers to the room and our night is underway. When googling things to do in Fujairah, McGettigan’s Pub, a popular bar in Abu Dhabi, comes up, so obviously this is where we plan to start our night. We were curious to see how it would stack up against the shit show that is AD’s McGettigan’s. We down 3 Bullfrogs (not recommended) for the following reason:
McGettigan’s in Fujairah, at least on this particular night, was pretty boring, but we met some other Abu Dhabi staycationers and when the bar decided to close down early we had to think fast to salvage our night. I had seen a sign at the hotel across from ours, advertising a place called Manila Beats…clearly this had to be destination number 2. And this is when shit gets weird.
We walk into the hotel and hear some music coming from a room so Andrea and I, alittle too happy from the aforementioned bullfrogs, go to investigate. We run through a door which leads through a small kitchen, the staff step aside and we pop out into a room full of Emirati men in Kindoras smoking shisha, watching bejeweled women dancing on stage. Not realizing we were in the wrong place at first, we start dancing in the middle of the room until it slowly dawns on us that we are not supposed to be there. Turns out we crashed the man’s side of a wedding reception.
Andrea: What do we do?
Me: (suave as fuck) “Dance out!” As I start a terrible moonwalk back the way we’d come. “Dance out, dance out, dance out!”
And out we pop, giggling, into the lobby from a slightly hidden side door, to a bewildered looking Maysa, Jackie and our new friends. Manila Beats is a Filipino inspired club, if there’s anything I know about the Philippines, from my time there and in Abu Dhabi, is that they LOVE Karaoke and they are damn good at it. On stage were women clad in various sparkly, culturally appropriated inappropriate costumes, dancing and singing while a male host sporting a blonde faux-hawk and sparkly heels was making lewd motions using his microphone as a prop. It was a little out of this world and Maysa and Jackie who hadn’t been drinking determined that the air must have been infused with drugs because even to them the whole scene was strange and confused.
The performers did an around the world melody mashup using the most culturally stereotypical pop songs-’Mr Roboto’ for Japan, ‘This is Africa’ for ALL of Africa, but the kicker was ‘Wiggle Wiggle, cause you know what to do with that big fat butt!’ for the USA.
Eventually they pulled me up on stage, possibly because I was enthusiastically and spastically dancing nearby, and let me tell you I broke it down….I’m pretty sure. Dancing ensued, the host and some big old Arab man dry humped each other on stage, things were strange but altogether delightful. At some point I got tired of men trying to dance with me or follow me around the bar and decided to pull a classic ‘Chelsie Irish Goodbye’ meaning I booked it without saying goodbye. The others made their way back eventually with incident (that’s not my story to tell) but those assholes woke me up. Since I was just wearing my “sleep sarong” I am afraid poor Maysa got an eyeful, but she knows the hazards of traveling with me (stay tuned for Ras Al Khaimah incident). Maysa and Jackie hid in the corner of our room trying to prevent Andrea from going on a hangry burger rampage through the hotel. I didn’t know they were there but I did know there were ‘eyes’ in the room so I rolled out of bed in an attempt to hide from them, I missed the landing and hit my elbow pretty hard.
Andrea: What are you doing?
Me: I feel like there are eyes on me and it’s making me uncomfortable. Said I from a crouched position behind my bed.
Andrea: (Whispering loudly) When they leave I’m going to escape and get us burgers!!!! (Maysa and Jackie hearing every word)
Me: I’m good with these chips. Apparently I had procured a bag of chips and was munching on them in my hiding place.
Jackie and Maysa gave up and left, leaving us to our fate.
Andrea: knock knock knock
Andrea: Is Chelsie here?
Maysa: No she’s in your room!
Andrea: Hahahahahahahaha! (runs off to get burgers)
Those burgers were delicious at 5 am.
The following morning, I discovered that I had spent some time messaging with my friend who’d escaped to Budapest for a week. Our last message was at 5:06 am. It went through a series of nonsensical messages about him watching me, dildos and 3somes, there was no logical beginning, middle or end to this conversation but I did determine that he was not drunk so I don’t know what his excuse for this was…maybe I lead him down the rabbit hole.
We awoke slowly and painfully, and made our way to a strange little mall for breakfast at Shakespeare and Co., a popular breakfast spot in the UAE with service that is just okay. Andrea and I were gung-ho on getting inflatable things for the beach but the problem being, we didn’t have a pump, needless to say these donuts did not get blown up.
We drove to Khor Fakkan, a popular snorkeling spot, it was hot as balls with no shade but we just wanted to swim. JELLYFISH!!!!! Red ones, everywhere-F^&K!!!
Hot as hell on the beach we could only wade in up to our knees to avoid getting stung; still we napped on the beach blissfully and watched the sun descend behind two small mountain peaks that looked like boobs, the day was not a bust!
We were recommended by the internet and Novotel staff to eat at Al Meshwar Restaurant. It was walkable from our hotel but 3 women walking down the road in Fujairah invites unwanted attention so if I were to do it again, I would not walk. The restaurant was not good…the seafood platter was pretty foul- like ghoulish and crusty looking; the arabic grill platter was decent but not amazing. We ate what we could and left feeling kind of gross and unsatisfied. During our time at this restaurant we watched a small boy run around with a knife sawing maniacally at a stone post and chasing his little sister, who kept plopping down on the floor, screaming and waited for her mother to come get her. This group was right next to us, so we asked to move, we were not obliged. The next family that came in, ate a feast while their Nanny sat at a table by herself with 3 children crawling all over her and nothing to eat.
The next morning, the plan was to head to a wadi and do some trekking, but as we made our way across the parking lot, the 40 plus degree heat had us changing plans pretty quickly. We decided to drive out to one of the wadi’s on the way home and walk around a bit, just to sightsee and then head back to Abu Dhabi. Classic google maps fail, took us to 2 or 3 wrong spots while looking for Wadi Siji.
Off roading in a Ford Figo, poor Maysa’s heart pounding as we went over gravel roads through mountains with no signs of life around. We found a dried up dam and walked up a little rocky hill (took me 45 sec)..Andrea snapped a picture of me pretending to summit and then we drove off back to Abu Dhabi.
We happened upon a highway that none of us had been on before, I had to pee; no rest stops, no cover for an hour and a half. We got to Yas Mall just in time for me to actually run straight to a toilet. While our Fujairah weekend was slightly anti-climactic and less successful than Ras Al Khaimah, these little mishaps and random happenings made for a fun weekend with good friends.