Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rover wanderer nomad vagabond

I feel I ought to tell you about my last run before Ramadan began last week. This was with my marathon training group again. In anticipation, I think, of needing to stay within the city with its dumpsters to skulk behind (so as to secretly and discretely rehydrate during the Holy month), our group headed to the east of the city. Out where goats and chickens and even a turkey skittered along our paths, and the aromas of farm life are strong.

Running over sands and through cream and white-walled neighborhoods, not a soul to be seen, we hoofed it at various speed and ability to the water stations which stand along roads all throughout Dubai for thirsty souls. The water at these stations is surprisingly cold, and quite safe to drink.

As we made our way towards the city suddenly all the runners stopped, swerved to the right and gaped at something among the hedges. Being of herd mentality I zipped over too and was surprised to see white tigers, including a white tiger cub, peering back at us with blue eyes from their enclosures beyond the shrubbery. No one knew what the place was, nor why there were tigers; someone's pets, perhaps.

(OK, so I don't carry a camera on my runs and this photo is of a tiger in the zoo in Issaquah, WA, but the look is the same. This one actually sprang at Thomas much to the amusement of his keepers. Thank heaven for iron bars! )

Still not a soul to be seen, we ran past what someone claimed was the Jordanian princess' new palace. It is a huge and gorgeous place. I think the princess referred to is Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein ("Haya, daughter of Hussein" -the western friendly King of Jordan, not Saddam, another animal entirely). She is the second bride of Sheikh Mohammed, is my age, has a baby girl, and is an avid horsewoman. The palace would look very much in place in England, where she went to university, and is to my taste as well. There are "no photos" signs everywhere, and the grounds are not yet complete, but you can tell it will be magnificent.

We made it up a bridge and back into town, where there was a petrol station and another water stop. Now, this was the first place with any sort of real bathrooms and I slugged down some water and got into line. It took a very long time for the person in front of me to come out, and I dashed in and back out quickly.

Not quick enough, though. When I came out, everybody else had gone.

Not a runner in sight.

I had missed the announcement as to where we were running off to next, as I'd been standing in line for the loo.


Well, heck, what do I do now? I asked myself.

I ran up the bridge, figuring it would give me a good vantage point, but looking around, still no runners anywhere. The sweat droplets that I suppose I could have followed in good Hansel and Gretel fashion had evaporated quickly in the heat. Dang and double dang.

There was no help for it then. I would have to run alone or get a taxi.

I could see the Emirates Towers off in the distance, near the base of which is the parking lot where we'd started from. I was soaking wet and footsore, stinky and uncomfortable in athletic clothing away from the group. Yet another toenail had come off during the previous 2 hours of running at some point. I ran back the way we'd come for awhile, not trusting myself to find the proper way through the city, then, gazing down one particularly deserted looking corridor of walls and sand that I would be running through, I decided this was a bad idea.

No police officer would have the slightest bit of sympathy for me if I were attacked running alone in spandex and shorts, and there had been at least 10 kilometers of running though such terrain before where I was now. I turned around and ran back along and up the bridge and to the gas station. Bought a bottle of water and hailed the nearest taxi.

As it turned out, I got back to the parking lot at about the same time as the other runners.

I had one of those moments, as I was getting out of the taxi. I had addressed and thanked the cabbie in his language, gotten out and made the Arabic hand sign that means "wait," "slow down" or "be patient" to the honking cab behind us. (Holding all 5 tips of your fingers together and upward like you would for a continental finger kiss and moving your hand up...really good to know here.) While making the gesture I realised I'd done so without even thinking about it, or having to think, OK, this guy is from Karala, what are my pet Malayalam phrases? It was a good feeling, and I overtipped him for that as well as for sweating all over the seat.

Regrouped with the others, apologies were offered and easily accepted for the leaving behind and desertion bit.

But I swear I am never going to get left behind again!


Cathy O. said...

These desert photos are stunning. I can't believe someone is keeping a white tiger... crazy! Good luck on the run this week. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes. Dear Scarlett "as Gawd is miah witness I shall never get left behind again."

Natalie said...

Anonymous: you are so on. That's exactly the sentiment!

Cathy: Thanks! Sharjah Desert for those photos. As for your being surprised someone in Dubai has white tiger lived here. Are you really surprised? :)

*Paula* said...

Holy cow Natalie! You really are in a different world aren't you. Stay safe!