Sunday, December 25, 2011

Travels in foreign lands-XXXVI (Other emirates of UAE-II)

The other two emirates which I visited are Ras-al-Khaimah and Fujaira. The first one I visited just for sight seeing but in Fujaira I have a cousin who is the Chief Engineer of the Municipality. I visited him a few times. Ras-al-Khaimahi is supposed to be a vegetable bowl in UAE. There are numerous farms growing vegetables and fruit. I had also heard about some hot springs. So one day I took a trip to this area. First we went straight to the hot springs. These are very well built by the local authorities. There is a reception and ticket counter. Inside there are separate areas for men and women. There are change rooms. One can take a dip in the pools which have been nicely made with good approaches. I was amazed by the cleanliness which is unlike our hot springs in Rajouri and other areas. I had visited a number of times the hot springs near Kalakot but these were in filthy condition. With garbage and muck all around. I wish our people could see how the authorities in Ras-al-Khaimah have kept the hot springs very spick and span! We could easily do the same and make these a big tourist attraction!
After this we visited some vegetable farms. These are spread over long stretches. Mostly Pakistani labour is working here and there are direct flights from Pakistan to this place. With the amount of oil money these Arabs have, they could turn all these deserts into a paradise. However, they are mostly given to luxuries and prefer fancy items like racing cars, power boats, golf, and so on. They import American and European goodies worth billions of dollars. Plane loads of famous American ice cream Baskin n’ Robbins is imported every week. Fruit, vegetables, soft drinks and so many other items are imported from all over the world. May be someday good sense will dawn on the new generation and they will go for productive investments instead of fancy goodies?
Fujaira is quite dry and rocky. It reminded me about Ladakh. On one side is the sea and on the other high rocky mountains of brown colour. My mother was keen to visit the family of my cousin. So one day we went by car to Fujaira. The road is good and it took us about two hours. The drive is monotonous all across the desert. We did cross a couple of towns on the way. The final portion of the drive is through narrow mountain valleys. After driving up and down the mountain valleys, the road opens up in a wide flat valley with mountains on the left side at some distance. On the way there is a fruit and vegetable market on both sides of the road. People stop here often to buy fruit and vegetables.
We drove straight to the home of my cousin. He lives in a multi-storey building. There are very few high rise buildings here and the town is quite small compared to Dubai and other places. On this first visit we just stayed with our relations. Had lunch and then relaxed for sometime. Suhail took me round the town and later we returned to Dubai. In the way we bought some fruit at the vegetable market. However, I made two more visits to Fujaira. One was with my sister and her family and the second with my friend S S Singh and his wife. During these visits we took a tour of the area. Suhail took us to a lake in the mountains and we drove along the sea shore for quite a distance. It presents a fantastic view. On one side are brown metallic Rocky Mountains and on the other is deep blue sea. It is a joyful ride. The lake is high up in the mountains. It has been acting as a water reservoir. When we visited the lake, it was almost empty but Suhail told us that in rains it gets filled up. On our return we stopped for a cup of coffee in the five star hotel on the beach. It is a very luxurious hotel and commands a fantastic view of the sea.
During my stay in Dubai, there was once very heavy rain. We came to know that there had been snow on the top of Ras-al-Khaimah Mountains. It was first time that people had seen snow! In fact, the Sheikh of Ras-al-Khaimah went up the mountain to see the snow. There were pictures of snowfall in Ras-al-Khaimah in all the local dailies of Dubai. Nature has strange ways. In Africa, the highest mountain is Mount Kilimanjaro which is situated on the equator but its top too is covered with snow!
During my frequent visits to Dubai and other emirates of UAE there were many other events and functions which I had the opportunity of attending. I nostalgically recall my stays in Dubai. It is a wonderful place to spend a couple of months in winter. The weather is excellent. There are sunny days and the temperature is ideal. When the entire Europe and many parts of Asia are reeling under cold and fog, Dubai is shinning. The best thing for them to sell is the weather in winter. Summer is being in an oven. They say temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius! One can fry an egg on an automobile bonnet! Let us hope we are able to get Srinagar-Dubai flight restarted. Dubai would be an ideal place to visit in winter especially for shopping and enjoying sunny weather. In return, we could attract large population of the rich in Dubai including Arabs and Asians to visit Kashmir in summer. In next couple of episodes I will try to describe my journeys to the Sultanate of Oman.

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