Minutes roll into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, so on and so forth. It seems an age since anything of note happened. The sun continues to shine, warm rays easing the pain of ageing bones and joints and were we to become any more laid back than we already are, we would probably fall over.
Courtesy of this year’s National Day, we were all granted a four day weekend to do with as we wished. The prospect of facing another period of ‘house-arrest’ by staying at home was to be avoided at all costs so, we hopped into the Ferrari and headed for the world’s fastest rollercoaster. (Yes – a Ferrari!) We embarked upon the usual decision making process, sleep in the dirt (camping) for a few days or relax in the warm embrace of a five star hotel somewhere in the United Arab Emirates – it really was a no-brainer. We motored in the Ferrari – (YES! – A FERRARI – GET OVER IT!!) towards clean sheets and a regular, buffet breakfast. The UAE border is some three hours or so away, followed by a short(ish) delay at a seemingly organised but quite chaotic border crossing, then a couple of hours more on empty roads to our latest, most favourite destination, wonderful Abu Dhabi. What we particularly like about this place is the feel of it all, the openness, clean lines, modern ways, attitudes, relaxed lifestyle, sumptuous wealth, modern cultural interests, things to do and see and the chance to shop, shop, SHOP! During our last visit, we barely had time to take any meaningful photographs and sadly, it was pretty much the same this time around. Far too much time was spent gawking at architecture that defied gravity, if not belief, to remember to lift the camera and immortalise the image by pressing a button. Maybe that’s just an excuse for us to return again soon?
The world’s fastest roller coaster accelerates to a staggering 240 kph in 4.9 seconds. That’s 0-100kph in 2 seconds! It pulls an acceleration of 1.7Gs with a maximum of 4.8Gs so your eyeballs gravitate to the back of your head and last night’s meal is ushered into making an unwanted appearance in your trouser seat. As an aficionado of roller-coasting activity, Disney World, Disney Land, Mammoth Mountain, Dreamland Margate, I can attest to this particular roller coaster, the world’s fastest, as being pretty dammed quick. Swim goggles are issued to protect your eyes as you hurtle around 2.07 kilometres of track; how we marvelled at the money that is spent on entertaining those who have, when those who do not, are literally starving. There, I’ve said my bit and if that puts me in the same league as Sir Bob, then I humbly accept my knighthood. But I digress. We parked up in front of the rollercoaster and set the camera upon a fence post to capture this enduring image of the pre-apocalyptic family who has everything.
We checked into our hotel next door to the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit where we could watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix in style. I distinctly remember asking Lewis if it was this weekend…
It was last weekend that the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix was won by Lewis Hamilton. In lieu of the fact that we would not see state of the art ‘rocket ships on wheels’ hurtling around a track, we spent the day at Ferrari world next door where we could do all manner of things Ferrari. We had a Ferrari lunch, rode on a Ferrari roller-coaster, drooled over the new ‘La Ferrari’, had a Ferrari ice-cream, rode in some Ferrari tyres (just like a spinning tea-cup ride I suppose), pretended to be winners on the Ferrari podium, raced Ferrari go-karts, watched Ferrari movies, rode in Ferrari simulators and finally bought some Ferrari souvenirs. If nothing else, we lived and breathed Ferrari. The building itself was also a spectacular piece of design engineering shaped, unsurprisingly, in the Ferrari marque. At the end of the day, a lot of Ferrari fun was had by one and all.
Being who we are, we were immediately upgraded to Premium visitors and handed complimentary tickets to Waterworld, where we took full advantage of this freebie the very next day.
A frenzied collection of brightly painted tubes, slides and enema inducing ducts, spouts and conduits welcomed us to Yas Waterworld; the UAE’s first MEGA waterpark. Hordes of families, mainly of Indian origin, swept through the park with their Premium wristbands visibly proud upon skinny, brown wrists. An overt display of superiority, deriding us ‘’regular’ guests, as we watched them parade along their designated access to the front of the queue. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t busy like a ‘Sunny Summer Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton – Phew! What a Scorcher!’ sort of busy, just busier than we have been used to of late. There were more foreigners than you could point a stick at and anyone who is not us, must be the foreigner, right?
We managed an early white-knuckle water ride, before crowd domination set in, and it scared the little one senseless. In some parts of the world this might be considered abuse but out here, it’s all considered a part of the growing up experience. Not to be deterred or persuaded by incessant grizzling or the gripping of fence posts and stamping of feet, we embarked upon a strict regime of challenging experiences for the child that would serve her well into adult life. Not being exactly sure how this was to be achieved, we duly signed her up for the ‘Pearl Diving’ experience. In a 5 metre deep water tank, cunningly designed to look like the bottom of an ocean with fake treasure chest, discarded anchor and some very convincing rocks, an audience would watch through the vast expanse of glass frontage as the ‘Pearl Diver’ risked asphyxiation for a pearl oyster. With very brief instructions to don mask, hold breath, dive down to the bottom and grab an oyster, we ushered the kid to the front of the queue by means of poking one or two fingers into the middle of her shoulder blades and employing a firm, rapid jabbing motion. In the end, the whimpering and whining became an embarrassment so the head of the household had to forsake his front row seat and chilled Pepsi to go and get wet in order to procure the oyster that seemed so desirous at the time.
Dive, dive, dive!
Down, down, deeper ‘n’ down
I, the Master Pearl Diver, earnestly began rummaging around in the sand at the bottom of the huge tank then finally held aloft, for approval, a small, brown shell. By this time, ageing lungs that have suffered so many years of mistreatment and neglect, gave out and it’s a bloody long way up when your oxygen supply has been depleted, I can tell you. Nevertheless, there remained a personal requirement to surface with a contrived air of theatrical grace! Gingerly we all waited whilst the attendant cut open the oyster to reveal…
…a squidgy mess resembling the contents of someone’s congested, nasal cavity. But wait! There inside the slime was a shiny white pearl the size of a Birdseye frozen, garden pea. At this point it all got ugly as the family fought over possession. Finders-keepers did not apply in this instance, apparently, so having risked life and limb to get the enamel covered grit, I was not allowed to keep it. Also, one pearl does not a pair of earrings make. Having been carefully cleaned with table salt and set into a silver cage flanked by two dolphins, the pearl was finally delivered to the sprog to love, cherish and remind her of this moment in her life. Whilst some things are best forgotten, this picture will serve as an eternal reminder.
Waterworld was a lot of fun but the intolerable wait for the best rides was too much to bear. Instead, we enjoyed the lazy rivers and many of the other attractions that are less attractive to those teenagers and adult kids that frequent such places of watery fun. As the sun began to set, the chill set in and the crowds thinned out. We emerged from our private cabana (tent) to make one final tour of the park before leaving, only to find that some of the best rides were unexpectedly available. Yeeha! We took a few turns on the snake tubes, cleverly securing the offspring with a tight grip of adult shins under her armpits (because her bum was too small to wedge in the innertube raft). An unusual position for rafting granted, however it served its purpose and if you cared or dared to ask her opinion, she would undoubtedly say, “It was AWESOME!”
Fortune continued to favour the brave as we found out that the country’s second largest mall had just recently opened. With no particular purchases in mind, we aimlessly wandered around the many, many, many shops that make up the Yas Mall. Anything and everything a shopaholic might desire appeared to be available here. Interestingly, I found that I could not, if I had the penchant for doing so, buy a Rolex! I may have missed a few shops but it seemed to me that my particular taste in luxury goods was not being catered for here. The mall, large though it is, seems to be missing something that the Dubai Mall has definitely got – an attraction, a centrepiece, a focus! Remember the fish tank in the Dubai Mall? The Yas Mall doesn’t have the same WOW! factor. Admittedly, there was a waterfall with some coloured lights and some arty stuff hanging from the ceiling but nothing to knock your socks off. It’s still new so maybe we’ll expect something extravagant in the near future.
There are two brands that are easily recognisable throughout the world; one being the yellow ‘M’ of McDonalds and the other the blue and yellow of IKEA. We saw both but were hypnotically drawn to the home of household goodies. Why, we only popped in to see if we could find a table light! As is so often the case in these circumstances, we finally emerged from the store with a trolley full of soft furnishings, kitchen gadgets, glassware, flat-pack furniture and several packs of paper napkins (plus holder with integrated weight – very innovative). The one thing we didn’t get was the table light!
As you can imagine, it was a fun few days in Abu Dhabi and exhausted as one is after such a break, we began to ponder the idea of making it a permanent feature…
Disclaimer: Just to put the record straight, not everything written here is exactly the way it happened or indeed, the whole truth. A large amount of literary licence has been employed for no other reason than ‘because we can’. Please bear in mind that no little ones, kids, children, sprogs or any other fluffy creatures were actually harmed, cajoled, abused, coerced, forced or anything else detrimental, into doing anything they did not want to, during this actual event or any other event, expedition, adventure ever spoken or written about, implied or intended. Anyway, the kid knows better than to complain!
And, as for the Ferrari…