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Thursday was the Islamic new year.  So we got the day off.  Shortly after the Oman trip I picked up a off-road map book of the UAE.  Sadly it turns out that just about all the cool wadis are in Oman.  I wasn’t relishing a long drive and crossing the border again so we just had to find something to do here in the UAE.  I rented a car and we made plans with our friends the Anderson’s to find a beach on the East coast.

I should pause for a moment and mention something about renting a car here.  I decided to rent from the airport because it is really close to the University.  So I got online and made a reservation with Budget.  When the cab dropped Lisa and I off at the airport we figured Arrivals was the place to go for the car.  We were right but all the rental companies are behind security!  There was no apparent access from outside security.  I tried going in the wrong way and was stopped by an Emirati fellow. He sent me on to security and then they sent me back to him… You get the idea.  Eventually they brought us through security and we made off with our rental.  Really though – who keeps all the rental companies behind security?  Apparently you are not allowed to rent a car unless you are arriving by air.  You’d think I would have learned by now…

The drive to the East side of the UAE is quite quick.  We were spotting the Gulf of Oman within an hour and 30 minutes and were parked at the beach in less than two.  On our way we passed through “Friday Market.”  Open air shops stretch along either side of the highway selling rugs, pots, pottery and fresh fruits and veggies.  We stopped only briefly though.  Just long enough to buy some too ripe kiwi and cotton candy and get back on the road.  If a person is into markets that would be a place to go.

We decided to head for a spot called Sandy Beach – I mean the name sounds great.  According to the off-road book there is an island (more like a giant rock) called Snoopy Island just off the beach and there is some great snorkelling there.  The book was not wrong.  We setup on the beach amongst the folks who appear to have camped their the night before (something I intend to do at some point) and quickly made our way into the waves.  This is not our first time to the beach but the other beaches have been in lagoons that are practically waveless.  This was a treat.

The kids had a blast in the waves and of

course the sand.  Jaron spent the entire day covered in sand when he wasn’t in the water. Lilli set to work on a sand castle and had a great time building an elaborate mansion with all sorts of rooms.  Kirsten couldn’t help but pick up every shell she could find.  Some even included inhabitants.  Of course we didn’t find out there were still crabs in a couple shells until we got home and they decided to come out.  It freaked Kirsten out something good and I think she still feels bad that she killed the little guys.  Lisa contented herself with wading in the water and playing with the kids (ours and the Andersons’)

I on the other hand just had to get out to that island and have a peak.  It was awesome.  Schools of brightly coloured fish darted around me and there were a thousand things to see.  This was my first “snorkelling” adventure – though I didn’t have a snorkel.  I didn’t stay long at the island because these things just are not that fun on your own.  The island was probably a little less than a kilometre away.  I didn’t want to freak Lisa out too much.  I suspected she couldn’t see me from the beach especially after I got up on the rocks and signalled but couldn’t get a response from them.  When I did get back they confirmed they couldn’t see me.

Whoops someone was still home.

I was a little sad that Lisa had no desire to swim out to the island and that Kirsten simply wasn’t a strong enough swimmer for me to risk taking her out there.  Then we had an idea.  If Kirsten could fit Jaron’s little life vest it would probably be just the right amount of assistance for her to cross the distance.  You can see Jaron wearing it in the picture above.

The vest was too small for her to zip it up but and it made it too awkward to swim.  Then we thought of turning it around backward.  That was better but with her arms through it swimming was still too awkward.  She tried using it as a paddle board but that wasn’t much good.  Finally we wrapped the vest around her middle and zipped it up from the back – like a girdle.  This made me happier since it wasn’t going to pop off of her and while it was really tight she had full range of motion with her upper body for swimming.  Oh how I wished we’d taken a photo – it was pretty funny.

Kirsten, Yvonne Anderson and I swam back out to the island.  The Anderson’s had a couple snorkels.  Kirsten used the snorkel on the way out there but got frustrated with it and made me take it.  Snorkels are awesome.  I now understand the appeal of snorkelling – I just didn’t get it before.  I think I may have to pick up a snorkel set.  Flippers would be pretty sweet I think.  Time for some lung training too.  A minute of air is just not long enough.  If I could get that up to 2 or three minutes that would be something.  The other item on the shopping list is a waterproof camera.  I just don’t have the vocabulary to describe how fascinating the marine life was.  This is also the third time I’ve really wished we had a waterproof camera.

Kirsten was afraid of stepping on the sea urchins that littered the rocky shore but she stepped carefully and we scrambled over the little island to its far side.  On the far side of the island was a small beach created no doubt by powerful ocean waves eroding the rock over eons.  The beach was of polished smooth stones of various sizes and a million seashells.  Kirsten would have taken the whole lot home if only she had a front end loader and a dump truck.  We picked through the rocks for a while and spent some time diving around the island taking in the marine life.  There is a giant sign at Sandy Beach which says fishing is prohibited.  A spear gun is temporarily scratched off the shopping list.

By the time we left the beach we had all had too much sun.  Poor little Jaron’s face was as red as a tomato.  No one is seriously burnt but had we stayed much longer things could have been ugly.  Spray on sunblock and popup beach tents are definitely on the shopping list now.