Abu Dhabi and Home
There are things that make life as a trailing spouse in the Diplomatic service very, very pleasant. Coming off a packed flight yesterday, with far too much to carry – as usual - and the temperature up at the 35 mark, I stopped against a wall to try to arrange a better way to carry a lap top, a hand bag, the book I had been reading when we landed, and a very heavy carry-on wheeled bag. I had, because I always have a large amount of luggage when teaching, tried to lighten the stuff I have to pay for by packing all the books in the carry on luggage. Then Bob asked me to pick up some alcohol that we needed, and which the commissary in Cairo had run out of, so that was wedged in too. It took all my strength to get it to the luggage locker in the plane.
I had not realised that I had to walk down a longish flight of steps when arriving in terminal two on the Etihad flight. Last time – both last times – that we arrived it was with Bob and on official trips and we were whisked away in fast black cars across the tarmac.
I struggled down with my twenty kilo pack and other bags to the long queue, hesitated to wedge my book in with my computer so I at least had a hand free, and a cheerful voice said “Good Afternoon Ma’am”.
There was Ashraf, tall and elegant in his suit and beaming with the fact that he had surprised me.
No - I have no right to assistance from Bob’s office when arriving or leaving on my own business trips. I had called a friendly taxi to collect me, but it was so nice to have my bags whisked away, my passport commandeered, and be whizzed though long queues and straight out the front door with an escort who looked after all my bags. Ashraf had had to bring someone else to the airport and had decided to wait the extra ten minutes to bring me back on his return trip, and I was so glad to see him.
I phoned my friendly taxi driver to ask him to pick up another passenger, with promised additional payment on Friday when he will take me shopping. Then we came home.
It really did feel like coming home too. Gamal and Veronica came running out to greet me, luggage magicked itself to the second floor, washing was scooped up and done, and I was walked around the garden by a proud Gamal to admire an effusion of roses which have draped themselves indolently over every surface in my absence. He has new pots up the sides of our marble front steps which are a tumble of blue cineraria. A jacaranda which looked like a dead tree, with the small ‘bird’s beaks’ seedpods of last season clustered on the ends of its branches, is now in full glorious flower, and its blossoms are strewed lightly over the lawn below – that wonderful blue-purple with our fragile Cairo grass at its emerald best.
I am rattling around in an empty now now – it is next day, and the Prophet’s Birthday. Bob is in Libya setting up a Serious Visit.
In my last entry I mentioned that my hosts in Abu Dhabi had considered an afternoon on the water.
We had the most heavenly afternoon. My host had taken the afternoon off work. It was so hot we actually waited an hour or so hoping the temperature would drop, or the winds turn so that they blew off the sea instead of the desert. From inside in air conditioning it looked OK as we could see movement in the bougainvillea that fall gracefully over the walls of the house, but a step outside the door had us walking into a wall of unrelenting heat.
We drove the short five minutes to a marina. I had absolutely no expectations, but most of my diving was done from black ‘rubber ducks’ so I didn’t expect glamour.
As we stepped into the marina my host stepped down onto the deck of a boat that had seen better days. It was wide and low, whitish, but speckled with black in the way that fiberglass goes when it is bleached and aging. Plastic cushions lay in a shallow puddle of water in the bottom of the boat and it hung ominously low in the water. My hostess said anxiously “Do you think it will start?” My host was ticking off his son for not tidying up last time they were out. The bewilderment on the little boy’s face was a picture, and then the others burst out laughing, stepped back onto the jetty, and moved to a superb and very stylish boat at the end.
We skimmed over water with a suddenly blissfully cool breeze flicking the hair from our faces, and the wake roaring behind us. It is a wonderful thing to do, close to flying, to ride over turquoise glassy water through shallow sand bars and small islands, past dhows and mosques and the red hotel built for the last Arab Summit.
We dropped anchor off a tiny curve of bay that sloped sharply into deep water, a good berth for the boat, and with it backed up to the sand we almost climbed down the ladder onto the sand. All three hit the water immediately. It is hard to realise that there are no sharks, no stones, no sea urchins, no sharp glass and not even waves or currents. The sand was not even gritty but like soft talc that poured through my fingers.
I had not packed a swimsuit, but went in fully clothed. As we left I had thrown in a three metre length of cotton from Satwa (the fabric souq in Dubai) and that made an effective sarong.
I spent all afternoon in that sea, and felt that I never wanted to leave. Small clear fish moved silently around our feet, visible only because they cast a shadow on the sand.
There was one other small treat. My hostess called us to see something she had found. It was a jet black nudibranch with vivid turquoise patches. I have always loved these - it had the typical flaring wings at the side and was moving across the sand. They are so small and so perfect, and I have often wondered how it helps them to be so beautifully coloured.
I took hardly any photographs as the view through the camera gave no sense of the openness, the sense of huge bowl of sky and a long, long stretch of horizon, or of the peace and calm that seemed to seep in to me through that heavenly water.