I can almost hear some of you out there reading this right now and rolling your eyes, oh pullllease.
Let me tell you a tiny bit about birthday parties in Dubai.
They can, unfortunately, be about one-upmanship. This happens everywhere, but I think it's especially obvious in Dubai.
I heard with much amusement the story of a 5 year-old little boy who received a pink invitation to a little girl's party. He hated pink and told his mother he would not go. His mother really wanted him to go because the hosts were Emirati, and the last time they had gone to an Emirati party each child was given a Wii Game System.
So what did she do?
She went and bought Ben Ten (ie boy-acceptable) birthday invitations, forged a second one from the little girl and gave it to her son, who then agreed to go.
For the 7 year olds in Bethy's class, we have been to a fully catered garden party at the Weston Hotel, and also to Atlantis in the underwater kids club where kids can play Wii and look out at the Whale Shark swimming by at the same time, or clamber on the ship rock climbing walls. There are a lot of parties at MyGym, where you drop your kids for 2 hours of play and cake, than come back and get them later.
These are fun, and interesting, and we were happy to be invited and to go. However, they were also not really our style.
So what is our style?
You may remember how I blissed out at the Birds of Prey Show in Dubai. How could I help it?
Well, Bethy loved it too, and it wasn't hard to convince her to hold her birthday party, hereafter refered to as her "Bird Day Party", there.
Bethy wearing a falconer's glove
holding Hetterich the Barn Owl,
her guests, and a documentary photographer
Birds of Prey is out past Mirdif, near Sharjah, away from the city. In other words, not on the beaten path. I spent agonising hours trying to make a good map with directions for parents to follow, squinting at various online maps, fighting tooth and claw with our Garmin (it won), and finally pestering gracious friends who were familiar enough with the area to help me figure out the best way to tell people to go. (You know who you are and I am eternally grateful!)
Setting out on the day with a (probably illegal) drive over sand and curbs to avoid construction, other parents who felt the map wasn't quite enough following me from the school in their SUVs, (they agreed to the unconventional route,) out onto Al Khail Road, at 100 kph, through the scariest roundabouts in Dubai. Also in the tightest following formation you can imagine. I felt a little bit like a race car driver in the front of the pack.
These parents were following me, per their request, having learned the hard way about trying to find places here. It was gratifying to hear how many other moms and dads also spend a great amount of time lost and frustrated on the roads. It was very gratifying to lead them straight there. All our guests, following or not, arrived safely, phew.
At 3:30 in the afternoon there was a nice breeze that made lighting Bethy's bird day candle nearly impossible, but one we were grateful to have: the temperature was in the 90s. Yes, my friends, it is early February. Welcome to the Middle East.
There is something about being out there in the desert land among the palm trees, hearing the wheee of the Snowy Owl, admiring the stunning orange eyes of the Eagle Owl, and witnessing the sheer majesty of the American Bald Eagle, that nurtures the soul.
Before the show Bethy and her little friends ran all around in the sand, gaping at the owls, eating chips and cotton candy and ignoring the fruits and yogurts I had brought. Of course.
When the show started the kids were much more dynamic than I'd seen before, getting up, quite unafraid, to be near the birds, yelling and laughing, the parents with their cameras got gorgeous shot after shot of the beautiful owls and hawks, falcons, eagles, and even giant vultures in action, and I was excited to hear the ooh and aahs.
Bethy had changed into her Princess costume in the car and was every bit the birthday girl.
In short, it was fabulous.
For the pièce de résistance, our friend Dalia made bird-on-a-nest cupcakes that would have left Martha Stewart weak in the knees.
I know. Happy kids, beautiful raptors, and cupcakes? It's amazing I didn't stroke out.
In addition to a regular sort of party gift from us, each child also received a leather falcon hood from us and a falcon feather from the Birds of Prey people to take home with them. More happiness.
Compared to other parites, we certainly didn't outspend anyone, nor was there glitz, and the glamour was all from the elegant hunter birds, but the kids (and I daresay the parents too) had a great time and learned lots.
Bethy was ecstatic.
How wonderful is that?
Special thanks to our guests, to Sandra and Zoli at Birds of Prey (http://birdsofprey-show-dubai.jimdo.com/), to Dalia for her ridiculously awesome baking skills ( http://www.homebakedtreats.com/), to Sariya (you know why!) and to Shuko, Ilka, Lizbeth and Karen for sharing their photographs.