This picture was taken by me in Greifswald, Germany last June.
...and this one of almost the same scene was
taken found on the internet by my friend Kathrin this December
This year?s third round of my Middle East student recruitment forays involved a trip to the UAE. Landed in Dubai to discover that the Hilton, responsible for arranging my visa, has ?slightly? screwed up and sent it to Abu Dhabi airport instead of Dubai. The good news is that the distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a little over an hour by car, so they sent it over in a taxi. No problem, its just another couple of hours in an airport.
Dubai is a city bathing in its own vanity. But there is somewhat of an artificial vibe about the whole place. Day one is a free day. What do you do with a free day in Dubai? Mission one: get a new digital camera to replace my Casio which recently met its untimely demise. Called up the shop to make sure they had the model I wanted and they delivered it right to my hotel room. I booked a 4×4 desert safari, where they take you on an offroad “adventure” drive through the desert in a large Land Cruiser, the they let you loose on a quadrunner, followed by dinner in the desert. Normally I would not partake in this kind of herded mass tourimsm, but it was better than spending the whole day in my hotel room.
So I got in the 4×4 with an elderly couple from scotland, a chinese business man and one crazy driver. After a 15-minute drive (on-road), the driver stopped, got out and said “20 minutes break”. WTF?! Break from what? Turns out this was a meeting point for other cars to convene and go off-road together.
After the “break” was over, we got back into the Land Cruiser, and the 4×4 convoy went off-road. It was then that our driver, with a big grin on his face, said “ready?”. Without waiting for an answer, he put the gas pedal to the floor. We went up, down, around and over the sand dunes, the driver making turns with as much speed as possible, kicking up sand and often jumping off the top of the dunes. I thought it was pretty cool, but the elderly couple in the back seat almost shit their pants. The one who seemed to be really enjoying himself was the driver. He was consumed in a shroud of adrenaline nirvana, oblivious to the people in the backseat who were about to hurl their lunch on me and him. Then he suddenly stopped on top of a very large and extremely steep dune, that’s when I realized how far we were from the rest of the cars. He gunned the engine while I thought to myself “He is not going down that dune at this angle…” Which he precicely did. The dune went down at at least a 70 degree angle, with a tilt angle of at least 45 degrees. The two right hand side wheels where almost in the air, going extremely fast down then up again as the dune formed a halfpipe-like shape with another one. The 3-ton monster caught air as we wnt off the top of the second dune.
With the front two wheels in the air, there was almost no way the driver could steer clear of the other car that suddenly appeard on the other side of the dune unless the driver of the other car quickly responded. Thankfully, he did. The maniac driver was laughing, the scottish couple were red faced, and the chinese almost fainted.
We finally got to the camp site, and it was quadrunner time. It was my turn to go crazy. Anyone going slower than I was on my demonic machine suffered the wrath of the sand spray kicked up by my rear wheels. Here are some pics of yours truely in action.
What followed was dinner, shisha and a bellydancing show. Back in the city, I went to the monolithic Mall of Emirates to check out the ski slope they have in there. Yeah, they built a friggin ski slope inside the mall, with real snow, a ski lift and everything. I signed up for a snowboarding lesson, which was great after about an hour of falling flat on my ass.
On my way out I somehowe wandered into the entertainment section of the mall. I saw a climbing wall and decided to give it a go to round off a day of extreme sports. There were three sections, easy (for wimps), medium and hard. I thought I’d warm up on the medium then I’d be steaming up the hard section. I scaled the medium section effortlessly, twice. Then I saluted the crowds and went for the hard section. Except the hard section turned out to be harder than I thought, and the only thing keeping me from falling spreadeagled face down was the saftey harness. My arms burned out on the medium section, okay!