I rented a Nissan Sunny today and it’s a beautiful thing.
For about a month I’ve been tutoring a 9th grade student who lives on the other side of town. It’s a good gig. Well paid and easy. I read and discuss books, assign vocabulary and comprehension exercises. I love reading and getting paid to read is supreme. The money is not worth it if I have to taxi. Also, I need a better way to get to my regular job since I recently lost my taxi partner.
Furthermore, I love road trips!
This morning a man dropped off my car and I soon found my way to tutoring. Afterwards I decided to explore and found many places that I didn’t know existed.
I get a kind of rush from knowing it’s the first time I have been somewhere: Zabeel Park, Zabeel Palace, parts of Bur Dubai and Karama, which are the oldest bits of the city.
I followed signs for the Corniche and found myself by a beach walk in progress, with round Candy Land shaped bushes and lots of pits of sand and gravel. The road went by many huge, gated villas.
Next I stumbled upon Al Mamzar Beach Park. This was another revelation. I stopped to stretch my legs, walking the squishy path past swimmers and sunbathers. The park is near the gulf, but looked more like a lake, one half obscured, so I can’t be sure. An unfamiliar skyline carved the horizon.
After more exploring I decided to seek out a sunset over the sand dunes and began driving in the opposite direction, towards Al-Ain, which is in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
An hour later, I saw cars pulling off to the side, so I soon found my own exit where couple vehicles were parked. When I got out of the car, you could see there was a path off the road, towards the sand. Walking around a few bushes I came to an open gate. A Western couple was leaving with their child.
Inside I could see about 50 camels in a large pen. A man sitting at a raised platform was motioning to me. As I entered he kept waving me over. As I approached I could see he was serving tea. He invited me onto the platform, which was covered in green, plastic AstroTurf. It was decorated with Arabic style furniture, sturdy pillows and carpets.
Because I had been using my GPS to navigate, my phone battery was too low for pictures and there is no photo evidence.
He spoke no English. Soon a father and his young son drove in and climbed the platform. They were talking and the first man kept refilling my little glass tea cup. I watched workers bring food to the camels and stared at the soft peaks of the dunes. It was surreal, sublime. The sand pouring into the distance. The men and their incomprehensible Arabic. The camels with their long necks and heavy lids began to remind me of giraffes.
The Father asked if I understood their talk. I smiled and shook my head. He told me the tea maker was from Yemen. He explained they were discussing the political situation and recent protests.
The sun was beginning to set, and the men told me they were going to pray. I went to leave but then the Yemeni poured me more tea and the Father told me I could stay and listen. They took out their prayer mats. A worker joined them. The Father led the prayer, singing out a call, which the others responded to in their own serious, mournful tones. It was the last of the five daily prayer times.
When the tea maker was done he sat down and poured me more. “Hallas” I said in Arabic. It means, ‘over/done/ finished’. I drank the glass and stood up, before he could offer more. “Shukran…thank you” I said as I descended.
I walked slowly back to my car, savoring the sand dunes, the dusk and camels, before climbing in my Sunny and driving home.