Wednesday, December 19, 2012

United Arab Emirates, Part IX - Recreation

I'm wrapping up posts from my trip in early November to the UAE just in time for the holidays and our trip to Prague and Berlin. Hooray!

The last piece I wanted to cover concerns recreation in the UAE, which was the only term I could think of to encompass the way Emirates (and ex-pats) spend their free time. Mostly because "going to the mall" seemed very 90s and not at all apt. But, basically, that's what it is.

Malls in the UAE are incredible. I'm sure you've heard about the mall with the indoor ski slope, or the the one with the shark tank/aquarium

Yep, those both exist.

When you take alcohol out of recreation and have a country that literally cannot be outdoors for nine months of the year in 115-120 degree heat, what you get are expansive, beautiful malls offering everything from indoor ice skating to scuba diving to, yes, shopping.

So, alas, on this trip we did not have time to actually go skiing at the Mall of the Emirates. BUT IT'S TOTALLY HAPPENING AT SOME POINT.

And also, they definitely had penguins there:

Terrible photo, but you get the idea. Look how charming he is in his little penguin suit. I mean, his feathers.
And, at the not-so-far-away Dubai Mall (where the Burj Khalifa is located), you can find this, the 10-million liter aquarium complete with sharks and a diving cage should you be so inclined to risk death in front of an entire mallful of passersby:

I think Baltimore could learn from this. The gallery is totally missing a 10-million liter aquarium which would totally lend itself to free publicity for the real aquarium. Now we just need a financial backer.
Another past time in the UAE (and in much of the Middle East) is the smoking of a shisha.
No, there is no illegal activity occurring here.

The gentleman purchased a gorgeous shisha pipe as one of his first pieces of Middle Eastern furniture (and his is not nearly as ornate as some of the more expensive pieces go), and we enjoyed some apple-mint one night after dinner. 

In order to smoke shisha, you'll either need to visit pretty much any cafe that has a shisha-smoking area, or you'll need to buy the pipe, the smokeless charcoal bricks, shisha tobacco, and, of course, a small blow torch.

Heat charcoal. Carefully. You're probably not supposed to do it this way, but we're expats and therefore unschooled in the ways of shisha.

Place charcoal on shisha pipe. But first, put down some aluminum foil. Oh wait, probably should have told you that first, oops.

Shisha smoke, while still made from tobacco, lacks the tar and chemicals of cigarettes and smells more strongly of whatever it's flavored with (and flavors range from mango to strawberry to bombay [whatever the hell that is]). It's a common after-dinner activity in restaurants and cafes and while some have restricted smoking areas, most do not. Your best bet, if you don't want to sit and inhale shisha smoke, is to not sit downwind. So, good luck with that.

On my last day in the UAE, we got to go to Al Forsan Sports Complex for a day of paintballing and wakeboarding to celebrate a friend's birthday. Al Forsan, a giant indoor-outdoor complex, has everything from go karting to horse back riding.

It was my first time going paintballing, and it turned out to be me and seven dudes. I was slightly worried that they might take pity on me or treat me differently, especially my boyfriend, but I soon discovered that all is fair in love and paintballing, and you had better be ready to CYA.

In paintballing, your boyfriend WILL shoot you in the eye, and his team WILL high-five him for doing so. You will return the favor by clocking him with not one-but TWO shots to the head while he's running to steal your teams flag. Because, naturally, couples should be on opposite teams. It's more fun that way.

Guess what else I learned? PAINTBALLS F***ING HURT.

This is what paintball hits look like day-of impact.
And this is what they look like the next day, after 18 hours on a plane.
After paintballing, we cooled off with some wakeboarding. In a giant, man-made lake-thing. Pulled by giant ski-lift-type machine things.

You stand in line, and when it's your turn, position yourself with your board and wait for the rope to pull you....

And don't do this. I'm so glad there is photographic evidence of my graceful fall right BEFORE I faceplanted into the water.
As it turns out, I apparently suck at wake boarding and couldn't stay up for more than a few seconds. I still think that, with more practice, I could have dominated. 

Also - if you go paintballing and wakeboarding right before you fly for 18 hours, you're gonna be hurt. Bad. All over.

But that's vacation, right?

No comments: