Where in the world….

am I?

this crazy planet is amazing.

A swim in the the Gulf of Oman had me looking ahead to Afghanistan, right to India and down to the Maldives as I swam in luke warm tender waters.

Alone, but not alone

Fisherman down the way celebrating their bounty.

And a stop to buy fresh bread, back in Al Ain as we watched the sun set on a remarkable two days.

fresh fresh
made the same way for centuries
cooked along the sides
and so the day ends

A must visit again part of our world.



So what’s next?

Wondering what the next adventure would be, I put myself into the care of dear dear friends (whose value to me is far greater than the riches that created the land they now call home) and waited to see where that led.

Citadels, landscapes, buildings, roads, birds, people beyond expectation and that was only day one 🙂

Early today we breakfasted, loaded our picnic, passports, bathers (swimming costumes). smiles, sense of adventure and headed to Oman – Sohar to be exact.

An hour’s easy drive from Al Ain.   A very defined custom’s border post; no photography, stand in line, and the excitement of a stamp in my passport, Oman 🙂   (No EU freedom of movement here.)   And finally now Sultans rule, not Sheikhs (I learn something new every hour here) and immediately the landscape has changed.

Mountains, now.   More rugged, more austere, more “rubbish”as my father and his mountaineer friends used to refer to this kind of rock ; not the sort of stone that draws climbers into its orbit, but rather hastens them in the opposite direction.

and remote
slightly wild
old and modern
they formed such barriers

Life here must have been unbearably tough, and in many areas, I am sure still.   Reading, as I am, Rags to Riches, the story of Dubai/Abi Dubai one can only marvel at the speed with which this change has occurred.

to villages along the way
look outs
mosques (different shapes from Al Ain
colours, shadows
guarding everything
these mountains are beautiful in an austere way



A special stop at Sohar for a picnic tea and biscuits, lovingly offered by Mick,; saw a middle aged man beautifully clad in white quietly ‘join’ us.

He sat on a bench right behind us, close enough in an empty vastness to be ‘part of our space’ and since there was a vast area with seating to chose from, I am guessing his solitude was beginning to weary him.

And he sat,


hands on knees,

looking ahead and studiously avoiding any visual contact with us.

It was a Saturday, a holy day and the streets were still deserted.

We spoke no arabic.

He spoke no English

He declined our offer of tea.

He declined our offer of biscuits.

As we packed up to leave,

we offered him some fruit,

he took an apple and banana

We left as he sat,

alone in the picnic ground,

beautifully clad in white on a holy day.



The Sport of Kings 

So in a country where kings have their way,  falconry ( like horse breeding) can be indulged whatever the cost.

Did I mention that camel racing is making a come back with 4 wheel drive vehicles easily accessible as a winning prize in local races.

Did I mention that Annie teaching English to young policemen one day enquires why one young man was late for class. His response was the waving of car keys at her – he had been racing falcons at dawn and won a car.

This became the topic then for the English lesson and phones came out showing her various falcons and camels when she suddenly did a double take – is that a lion? Sure enough, that photo wasn’t a bird or camel but lion cub!!! A pet. Next a cheetah and I forget the third animal (bear?)

But the falcons, I hear you cry.

Yes there was one, one bird and four people standing around it asking questions of the handler. I could not believe my ears, the handler was South African as were the three strangers collected around her!!!!! Strange world.

There is a Huge falcon research centre on Al Ain and this young lady had always had a passion for birds. She studied animal husbandry at Potch University and finally found herself working here – a dream job – a dream come true 😃. She’s off shortly to Scotland to look for breeding birds.

This bird was a female, a little stressed at times as she overheated and was sprayed with water, bigger than the male as she needs to incubate eggs and he needs agility to hunt for two.

She has an enormous crop and I was invited to ‘poke my finger in her chest and feel’

Goodness me, I thought my finger would come out her back!!!! The strangest sensation but of course makes perfect sense for storage of you think about the size of the prey relative to her size.

I was proudly advised that a ladies only falconry club was starting. A two week course in November – Free and falcons provided. I can see another adventure looming

So alert
So proud
Matching gazes
Each time they seem to move in harmony
Quite relaxed
And comfortable with my handler
Although if I get hot ….
I get agitated
And settle when cooled off with water
The male ( and Annie 😜)

Quite heavy after a while

Next stop Qasr Al Muwaijii

Next stop Qasr Al Muwaijii
A mouthful for an non Arabic speaker like me – so I’ll call it the Fort
Actually it is one of many forts built over the centuries to protect the oasis (Al Ain) and irrigation channels (aflaj) that were created by the locals.

This one was built by Sheikh Zayed the Great (1826-1909)

For those who care😜it is bounded by the Hajar Mountains (east) and the rolling dunes of the Al Runb’ al

Khali (west), meaning the Empty Quarter. Just how empty, I hope to discover next visit.

Traditional dancing by elegantly clad men enchanted everyone and watching the young boys watching their obvious heroes and trying to copy them enchanted me.

Once again the men and women displayed great courtesy and patience as we asked questions that I’m sure they have had to answer thousands of time (or just maybe not- such as, what so do you wear under your hajib? She, a skirt and t shirt. I did not ask him 😜)

If it were only women she would not cover herself and at home, in the presence of her father or brothers she would uncover.

No, it is not hot, it is very light fabric.

No, generally the women don’t wash the men’s robes. They are sent out to be cleaned and pressed.

High quality Egyptian cotton for those wondering.

With eyes now tuned to detail I note the beautiful detail in the hajibs- the sleeves embroidered in black, scalloped perhaps, hemmed artistically. But always subtlety.

Nothing subtle about the eyes though – usually heavily made up, with deep lashes, dark kohl, they seem to present smouldering power and meekness at the same time.

University education is accessible to everyone and I have been repeatedly taken aback when talking to a ‘lady in black’ to discover she is a practising dentist, engineer, doctor. Says something again about my preconceived ideas 😢

The adventure continues …..

The musician
A dance
Following our heroes

Almost got there
One day ….
And so I learn ….
So gracious
The old and the new

After Jebel Hafeet 

We stopped at the Al Ain Mall. Deserted (it was Friday- holy day), sophisticated and very well ‘stocked’. All the brand shops, Apple, Zara, Marks & Spensors as well as remarkable individual stores – the jewellery stores were stunning – photos don’t do them justice 😩

Diamonds to die for, gold to melt your heart and security being ‘not an issue’ everything is available for scrutiny.

There is a whole level devoted to games, which also hosts an ice rink ! Oh to have had more time!

The city is spotless; disciplined in a middle Eastern kind of way. Men are courteous, not supercilious or presumptuous (of course that may be as much as indication of my advancing years as anything else 😜) and the women gracious, slightly shy but open to conversation always.

A drive through the market (Al Aflaj?) revealed a different world. Goats in tiny pens, herded together by perhaps owners, age, sex, colour, and camels too. Tall ones, surprisingly small ones, dark brown, usual sandy beige, babies suckling. We watched one bring paraded like a stud horse before a potential buyer. We watched another being loaded into a bakkie (ute). It was done very ‘unceremoniously’ and was difficult to watch, but clearly ‘the way’ here. We did not ‘engage’ at the market as both Annie and I often do, but drove through ; I was very aware of being an outsider, non local and the men hanging round the animals were equally clearly non locals, Afghani, Bedouin etc.

A quick stop off at home to have a drink and check the rugby score 😂

And we were off again

An ice rink in the desert – go figure
Play zone
One and two 😔
Such craftsmanship
With tiny detail
And 23 carat shimmering
There’s eating, using and now flaunting 😂
Someone wears it?…
Every size
And colour
Please don’t separate us
Please pick me

Arriving – a quiet place

In Abu Dhabi. This time as scheduled, 😜 I am now on a bus to Al Ain.
My eyes are struggling to adapt to this terrain. Having been saturated with the green of England, this looks so, so beige, all sand, not white, not yellow, just ‘blah’

So I sit and ‘gaze’ mindlessly travelling through scrubland, weary from an excruciatingly long flight.

Then, for a moment, I See, my eyes attuned; the curve of the freeway; a building moulded, bent, shaped; a minaret, curved, detailed, elegant.

At exactly the same moment, it blurs as if melting back into the sand. So I’m not sure of anything except the cold air conditioning of the impeccably clean bus.

I then see Nothing; as far as the horizon. This Nothing is messy after the manicured Devon fields, rocks, sand, scrub, a camel, all beige and scruffy looking, as if no one had been in to tidy for years.
My breath is suspended as some dunes appear – such beauty, soaring, orange, a sweeping curve reminding me of an eagles wing
This is a different place; I must sit up and take note.

Tourists please follow brown signs – I don’t see any brown signs – what does that mean? Where do the tourists go?

The roads are magnificent and everyone travels sedately, I notice. No one speeds (what’s the secret I ask myself? Chop off their wheels if they do😜)

Everyone moves quietly, almost elegantly, perhaps the beautiful sleek dress has something to do with it. The men stand tall, robed mostly in white – So white, so clean, so uncreased 😂. The women almost exclusively in black, from head to toe.

It is a ‘quiet place’

And my bus pulls into Al Ain; to the joy of good friends waiting for me and the excitement of the unknown beyond.


Jebel Hafeet

Where to begin 😃😃

Al Ain (The Spring in Arabic)- you now know where it is😃- so what’s to do there?

Plenty as it turns out.

A lovely fruit and yogurt breakfast started the day which saw us driving up to Jebel Hafeet.

Al Ain is flat, desert scrubland with these sudden dramatic protruding ‘mountains’. Except mountains is not the correct word – extrusions is perhaps a better description. I am trying to discover their origins but for that, patience please 😂.

Jebel Hafeet is a short drive south of the city centre along a remarkable double lane highway.

The second highest point in the emirate it is a protrusion that dominates the ‘flatlands’ Complex rocks, with many caves (no we didn’t enter any) and marine fossils apparently easily visible.

A UNESCO Heritage Site, 500 tombs have been uncovered here, dating back 3200-2700BC.

This is the most remarkable road, and reminding me in the scale of the road I had just walked on towards Buckingham Palace : impressive, winding ever upward (1 249m; 4098′) – to, as it turned out, a Palace.

Well no longer a palace for reasons best understood by Sheiks, Sultans, Kings and Queens, a new palace has been built with even better views (?) and perhaps a bigger bathroom or two-it is not for us to know.

The ‘old’ palace is now a hotel, looking out boldly across the city. We looked out more dimly than boldly as there was a definite heat haze blurring our vista.

The coffee was weak and very hot (could have done with it strong and cool😜); the sun forced us to move into the shade and we watched as people lazed around the pool, drank beers (alcohol not served outside hotels), men and women with flesh and tattoos exposed; a definite no no for the emirate people, of whom we saw none up here and for a short stay could have been at any hotel in the western world.

We continued a short way beyond (You could only continue a short way😂) when the road stopped, or rather we were stopped by the entrance to the new palace, from what I could see a masterpiece of modern sleek architecture, curved glass, blending spectacularly into the mountain.

Should I be back, I would like to walk this drive. To savour the views, the colours and textures of the rocks, at a more leisurely pace (albeit with, no doubt bursting lungs and aching legs). There is a cycle race annually here; the hills used for training for hikes and treks, (although I saw no sign while in Al Ain of any physical activity at all – sort of noticeable by its absence)

Jebel Hafeet

The start up
The ‘old’ Palace
Which means water
And us 😃
Elegance everywhere ..
Even in the fencing


We guessing – security gates connected to palace
Looking across to new palace – see the scree slope 😳
Stunning views. I’m sure

Al Ain

No not L. A. Al Ain.
Okay, I too, had to find an atlas and look it up. So for those without such a useful book (which as I remember was out of date almost as soon as it was published 😂)

Al Ain is the second city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi being the first, the largest and the capital of both the emirate and the country.

For those interested, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of 7 Emirates, amongst them Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Umm etc. Okay so you knew that, I won’t list them all then 😂.

Did you know the UAE is a member of the GCC (Arab Gulf

Co-operation centre) which includes Bahrain, Saudi, Kuwait etc. The etc again cause you know this and don’t want to be bored 😜.

Population of Abu Dhabi is (1.6million only), the largest of the emirates (by far, 87 340sq km) with 9% of worlds proven oil reserves and 4% of the worlds proven natural gas reserves. It is seriously wealthy (see my blogs, Abu Dhabi )

Oil was discovered in 1958 and the transformation of this area has been phenomenal (from rags to riches – a good read)

So if that isn’t a good enough reason to visit this part of the world, how about Etihad stops here on its way to Everywhere?

Better still, my dearest friends live here and I have not seen them for 16 years?

Well that’s why Al Ain ❤️

That’s where
Abu Dhabi houses and main road 1961
Tracks approaching Abu Dhabi 1954
The other reason