The Al Ain Wildlife Park is a well known zoo in the UAE, and is famous for the variety of species it has. It is almost two hundred kilometres from home, and hence visiting it meant a day outing, which had to be planned. And the plan has been building up for almost three months now. We as a family are not big planners, we may wake up at noon on a weekend, and then decide to go to a place which is over a hundred kilometres away and just do it. It works out great here, because of the good roads, and amazing speeds though. So this planned trip not working out was getting to me. We just could not set it right, because this one meant leaving home at a decent time, so that we could spend enough time exploring the zoo, and then, also head home before it gets too late. The biggest problem was waking up in time to do it. So I finally fixed it for the three day weekend, where we would be rested enough to wake up early, but that turned out to be one stormy weekend. The weekends post that, the GP was not feeling to great, and it did not seem right to stress him out with the long drive ahead. And so the plan was stalled as always. But it never struck me once, that with so many obstacles cropping up, it would be best to drop the plan.
This weekend we decided to do it, come what may. Since the GP and I both love animals, we were atleast equally interested in doing this. Now the point is, I have been to another great zoo, and blogged about it, when Rakesh told me that the Al Ain zoo was an even better option, and convinced me that it was air conditioned, just like the one I had been to, but larger and better. So that is what I had in mind, and all the googling told me was about the location and timing. I dressed up in black jeans, and a full sleeved black shirt and off we went. What really struck me about the place, was that it is much greener than anywhere else in the UAE, and naturally so, not the cultivated greenery, but the natural one. From the time we started, we were amazed to see some greenery along the highway instead of the dead sand all along as we usually do here. Two hundred kilometres, and an excessively oily KFC lunch later, we reached the zoo.
To be honest its a well planned, and very well maintained zoo. Nice visitors gallery, green walkways, laid out over a huge area, loads of animals to see. So it would have been paradise, except for the fact that there was no air conditioning of any kind. At 42 degrees, with over seventy percent humidity, this was not the ideal condition for a relaxed walk around. Worse still the BB is not used to so much heat, and he gets heat allergies at times. And I on my part, have developed an art of inappropriate dressing. The day we got caught in the storm in the middle of nowhere, was the first time in my life I wore a ganjee like top and had to end up being around people, who were not used to seeing women much, and even then in anything less than an abaaya. Fortunately I had something like a stole to wrap around me, and that was my only saving grace back then. And this weekend, I was dressed completely in black, in the direct heat, and walking, till my legs felt like they were burning.(See the photo for proof and my accessorising efforts. It was HOT.) I have to learn to anticipate, more than what I expect now. And damn the photo-ops.
We got our tickets, and entered the park, walked around a bit to find the air conditioning, just that every step we took, told us there was not going to be any. We walked around just one section, which had the lions, pumas and some such animals, most of which were hidden in their dens, getting respite from the heat. So we saw a very few animals to be honest. Fortunately the BB's stroller was with us, and we put him in, much against his wishes with the canopy unfolded. He turned completely red inspite of that. The zoo had these water mist forming devices, which were let on occasionally to cool the area, and every visitor just stood in them enjoying the cool mist. We just rushed through a very tiny segment of the place, and ran out into the cool of the car. And I am so going back there for a nice trip once the temperatures dip.
Some proof that we visited the zoo.
As we were on our way out, and I felt like I was being burnt into a crisp toast, especially due to clothes, I saw women in black abaayas. And I knew immediately that I needed to stop the self pity. These were women in two layers of clothing, and the top layer fully black, and synthetic. It was like a form of medieval torture in that wretched heat. Atleast my clothes were a more humane cotton. Why and how can people be so obviously oblivious, to cruelty I wonder. Are the women really used to it? Would they really mind not feeling quite that hot? Sometimes God really does put things into perspective, and I thank my lucky stars for being where I am, and not anywhere else. And my heartfelt sympathies for the ladies in black.
Once out of the place, it felt like a really bad thing to have driven so far for nothing. Fortunately though, there is a mountain the vicinity called Jebel Hafeet. A little over a kilometre to the summit, with a nice winding road, it seemed like the best we could do to make the trip worthwhile. I am not really a mountain person, but what really took my breath away, were these amazing rock formations, that are visible. To say the least, they are unusual and gorgeous. At the top the temperature was a good seven degrees less than the foothills. The view, was better from one of the viewing galleries on the way, because at the top, the bottom was a bit hazy due to the suspended sand. But the cooler temperature, was worth the climb.
Being a weekend, there was a lot of crowd here. Friday, the 14th of August is also the Pakistani Independence Day, and Man! were they celebrating. There we cars full of people holding out the Pakistani flag from the windows, with the flag draped on the roof or even the bonnet, loud patriotic songs playing. The Pathans would get off the vehicles, turn on the songs louder and dance to it. It was amazing watching it all happen, and I think this was the only time I could have observed Pakistani patriotism. And I guess its right when they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. It was rowdy, but it was their way of celebrating, what is close to their heart.
And from there, we came back home. And relaxed for the rest of the day. Saturday was just about getting the grocery shopping done, and a drive along the beach in the evening. And that is what this weekend was like.