It has been a whirlwind week.
Omi flew in from Saudi and adventuring took on a new dimension. It is something unique, to gather disseminated family in a far away place, which is home to some of our number. Foreign yet familiar, cuddling and conversing. Checking in, astounded and impressed by developments. Less of ‘finding ourselves on the same page’ so much as ‘writing ourselves into new pages.’
We went back to Green Mubazzarah on the pretense of looking for the swim suit I forgot on our previous venture. It had been disposed of but we enjoyed the hot, relaxing waters nonetheless. Purported therapeutic properties of the thermal baths are attributed to it being laden by minerals from deep within the mountain.
Once it was simply a large lake. While a small outdoor pool still exists atop one of the hillocks at the base of Jebel Hafeet, most of the water has been diverted into outdoor, mossy (ie- slippery) channels where children can play, as well as individual bath houses for men and women.
We have been at an advantage to keep our early schedule as we often hit points of interest just before crowds of other visitors and locals who stay up much later. It being the equivalent to their Friday night, when we left around 8 pm, the area was just beginning to fill with families picnicking, other bathers and business for the pony rides, inflatable fun house, KFC & Pizza Hut on the grounds.
The next morning, Tim packed up the Yaris, dubbed by their maker, Toyota, a ‘subcompact car’ and the 4 [four] of us headed toward Dibba, in the Emirate of Al Fujairah. Appeasing my mountain curiosity, we planned a route which cut up through the Al Hajar mountains.
They say each of the Emirates has a different color of sand. Much like people in this country, sands often exist alongside one another, accentuating what is unique in each.
We cut up into the mountains on E 88, stopping in the town of Masafi. A mountain town which hosts a large water bottling factory for the region and home to Ali Al Mahrazi. Having found the afore-linked page, was curious, as I always am, about any individual whose endeavours veer from the norm. The property was along the main road through town, across the street from the water bottling factory. The gate was open, so we drove up. The place was all but deserted (nyuk nyuk) as it was a sleepy Friday morning (Muslim day of prayer when most are at Mosques [also, makes for least trafficked driving time]).
Anxious to reassure my dubious family we could be here and excited to try out the little Arabic I have learned, I walked toward the father of the small family on the playground in the yard of the home in the midst of the grounds.
Translation of conversation:
I walk near, enthusiastically greeting him, “Goodbye!”
He cocks his head curiously, looking at me.
“Is it alright if we look around?”
“Yes, yes. No problem.”
“Thank you, hello.”
We climbed one of the many peculiar features, a lookout, of sorts, atop a rocky rise. Looking around, unsure what to do with ourselves, clever Anna quipped, “This guy must be like the Jim Bishop of the Emirates.” We wandered around, took some pictures, then loaded up and headed off.
Again, appeasing my fixation with getting off the beaten track, and on the pretense of looking for a campsite, we veered off the main road, following a well used circumvention around an established barrier and headed down an abandoned road. We then set out on a dirt track amoung hills dotted by Serengeti-ish trees. We drove as far/slightly further than our 2 inches of road clearance would allow on the sandy tracks.
Passing homes built helter-skelter into the land. Massive mansions, out in the middle of nowhere, water coming in through black plastic pipes which ran along the hillsides. Goats, chickens, and I heard my first dogs since I’ve been here! We drove into a Wadi and ever accommodating Tim joined me in scrambling up a hillside to overlook the town.
The town is astoundingly green and heavily farmed. From up there we could hear jumahs echo from two Mosques as the Emams were broadcast over loudspeakers. While these sandstone mountains appear, from afar, to be barren of growing life, they in fact support a thriving population of plant life in the form of tiny, invisible, stabby jerk-pricks.
Stopped in to a local family dining restaurant, again and still just ahead of everyone else in the country’s schedule. We were immediately ushered into a booth, empty except large pillows lining the wall and received food within three  minutes of ordering. The waiter laid out plastic sheets as we perused the menu. Were a bit alarmed that one of the items listed was “mutton piss.” Promptly were served bowls of unidentified yellowish soup. It was actually quite delicious. I was further thrilled to eat the entire meal with our hands! Though, I committed haram by eating with my left hand.
Never offer your left hand in greeting here, they find it deeply offensive. In fact, they don’t use it for anything other than butt wiping. I noted in Anna’s school that all of the children were writing right handed. She told me it was the same in Korea where left-handedness is essentially trained out of the children.
Finally, we headed off toward our destination, Dibba.