United Arab Emirates
It’s been about two years since I have been able to travel – due to a health problem. Let me explain: I visited my doctor after suffering occasional heart palpitations for some time, and three days later, feeling like pencils could be sharpened in my anus, I was being wheeled into the operating theatre at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, where I was to have a Cardiac Pacemaker fitted. An experience which focuses the mind and rates at 10 on the sphincter scale.
Having felt that I had narrowly escaped an early lesson in the art of undertaking, I resigned that as soon as I got home, I would re-kindle my lust for travel and treat myself to a short break away somewhere. But where? Well, anywhere that the medical services were good and they didn’t mind if you walked with a strange stance – at least until my sphincter relaxed (if it ever would). Whilst I contemplated on how long a person could live without farting, which I am sure you will agree, is one of life’s better personal pleasures – especially if you can belch at the same time! My long-suffering wife was reading an article in some pre-menopausal women’s magazine about Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
I remembered that I have a nephew in Dubai whom I had not seen for years, and maybe it was time to remind the bugger what I looked like. With that in mind, it was settled. Dubai it was. I visited the local travel agents and discovered that they were promoting a five day stop-over to Dubai, complete with three nights in a four star deluxe hotel, and all for about the price of a good night out with the boys. What’s more, I could go next day. I dashed home, pushed two pairs of clean underwear into a condom, swallowed hard, and I was packed and ready to go.
I have to say that I have travelled the world with all kinds of airlines and on all kinds of aircraft, from a Bristol Britannia to a Boeing 767, and even with “The World’s Favourite Airline” (although once was enough!). However, here I was flying with Emirates Airlines for the first time and I can thoroughly recommend them, not least of all because it has to be the only airline that allows smoking on board. The aircraft and service are second to none, we even ate our meals with metal cutlery! Yes dear reader, I will say it again, Emirates Airlines. Do yourself a big favour and use them, they are tops. The flight was about six and a half hours from London and I arrived feeling relaxed and refreshed. Out of the aircraft, along the skywalk and into the arrivals hall where your luggage awaits you, then across the hall through passport control and towards the large automatic glass doors.
The door opened in front of me, and that’s when the heat and humidity hit me like a blanket soaked in hot urine. I stood still, swiftly looking around the mass of white robed individuals for any signs of an AK-47 assault rifle. There was none. Heaving a sigh of relief, I looked up into a spangled night sky whilst the smell of a thousand sweaty feet pervaded my nose. ‘Ugh! What a stink!’ I thought to myself, looking down again and trying to catch a glimpse of what could be generating this smell.
My stomach tightened, my bowels cramped, then looking to the dark Arabian sky again, I farted long and hard, about an eight on the Richter scale I would have said. A fart any camel would have been proud of. Now there’s something to wonder about, why is it that you never hear camels fart? Maybe it’s something to do with conserving water, perhaps they are prone to wet farts, who knows?
The young Arab boy standing half asleep next to me, looked up at me with a questioning look. ‘Airline food,’ I explained, looking down at him and hoping that he understood. He pulled at his father’s sleeve and spoke to him in a tongue which sounded to me like Swedish spoken backwards. I didn’t understand but I imagine he was probably saying, ‘Will I be able to fart like that when I grow up?’ and his father was probably replying ‘I hope not!’
I had figured that I could get away with a mild and quiet fart in all this noise and smell, but I had not pondered the possibility that I might cause an international incident if my bowels had been saving this up all the way from London. Suddenly I remembered my condom and cast a glance downwards, half expecting it to be lying on the ground underneath me, but luckily I would still be able to have clean underwear tomorrow.
My hotel was situated in the centre of Dubai and far from being a ‘four star deluxe’ turned out to have the reputation of being the focal point for Eastern European prostitutes. Nevertheless, it was comfortable and clean and if I became bored I hadn’t got far to go! I met a guy at breakfast who I had seen on the flight over and we got talking. Like me, it was his first visit to Dubai and we decided team up and explore together.
Dubai is like Dallas but more exciting. Chrome and glass tower blocks everywhere, a very modern and westernised city mixed with Islamic culture and ideals. Taxis are cheap and plentiful and they all charge the same rates so there is no fear of being ripped off. The thing that struck me most heavily was the absolute lack of crime. You could drop your wallet with all your cash and cards, and find it the next day exactly where you had dropped it, completely untouched. The locals are friendly and go out of their way to assist you and always appear happy. This cosmopolitan city is home to all nationalities and cultures and you can easily find yourself eating breakfast alongside Australians, Indonesians, East and West Europeans, Americans, etc., etc.
The universal language is English so there are no problems being understood and Arabic tends to be the second language, although you hardly ever hear it spoken unless a couple of the local yokels are chatting together. Alcohol is forbidden in Islamic culture, but freely available to westerners. Don’t make the mistake of offering a local any alcohol. Some do drink it, but never in public.
After lunch at the Royal Dubai Golf and Yacht Club (highly recommended) my new friend, Robert and I decided to take an outing to the desert with ‘Arabian Adventures’. We were collected by a fleet of 3½ litre, V8 Toyota four tracks, and Richard and I made ourselves comfortable in the leading vehicle. After a short dash along the Abu Dhabi road out of Dubai, we turned off the motorway and were on the edge of the desert where we stopped for the driver to let almost all of the air out of the tyres, and to tell us about the copious supplies of cold bottled water he had stored on board for us. So whilst the drivers attended to their tyres, the passengers from all 29 vehicles spilled out, grabbing bottles and taking the obligatory tourist photos.
I hadn’t realised that the desert was so big. I mean, we have all seen it on the TV but I reckon when God created the deserts of Arabia, he was briefed by the Americans. It’s well….huge! I had expected to see lots of sand dunes the likes of which you can see on any British beach but bloody hell, these are enormous – three to six stories high – and beautifully scalloped by the wind. The sand itself is not gritty, as you would expect, but rather it has the feel of talcum powder and tends to flow like water when prompted.
Piling back into the four tracks we set off on a gut-wrenching journey of dune bashing lasting in total about two hours. The drivers stopped at intervals, allowing us to settle our stomachs, empty our pants and resuscitate those of our fellow travellers who had expected a gentle desert drive this afternoon. The convoy was by now snaking over miles of desert and these stops also allowed the stragglers to catch up. Eventually, just before dusk, we arrived at the highest of all the dunes in the desert. My new friend Robert tumbled out and cast a furtive glance around. ‘Where’s the rest of them?’ he asked. ‘Oh, miles back,’ I replied and then he scampered along the crescent of the dune with me closely following, until we were almost out of sight of our vehicle. He then proceeded to unzip his shorts, lean back and, aiming out over the edge of the crescent into this vast dune, he began to take a well needed piss.
I was horrified! Here we were in an Islamic country that cuts your hands off for the least of public offences, and there was Richard, his pants down to his ankles showing his wedding tackle for all the World to see. My mind raced into overdrive. I could see it all, Robert and I strapped to a large wooden bench in the City Square surrounded by hordes of Arab families, as a large sweaty man swings a huge sabre, and clang! Our hands have disappeared as punishment for this shameful public obscenity that Robert was now performing. The months of healing afterwards, the repatriation to our own country as a deportee, and worst of all, having to ask someone else to scratch your ass!
Acting as lookout from a respectable distance, I heard a guttural “Aaaarrrggghhhh” and as he leaned further backwards, spraying urine high into the desert air, the edge of the dune gave way under his feet. Just at that moment, a four track full of Japanese tourists clicking away as though cameras are going out of fashion, leapt over the ridge next to where he was standing, causing him crash downwards into the dune. He did a perfect reverse sulko with a single twist that any high diver would have been proud of, squirting a trail of urine as he fell through the air. He landed gracefully alongside a camel with his penis still in his hand. The camel, unaware of the grace and beauty of Robert’s dive, continued evacuating its bowels, large lumps of camel dung dropping with a muffled thud next to Richard’s head.
He lay there trying to find the courage to move, but fearing that at the very least, he had dislocated his manhood, he lay motionless. He slowly looked up at me, to see that I was waving my arms around like a demented clown trying to point to the camel’s feet. Eventually Robert felt something and looked down just in time to see the desert floor exploding with a hundred hungry dung beetles, homing in on the pile of camel dung next to his head. Needless to say, he raced back up the dune a sight faster than he went down it!
Arriving back in England, happily with my hands still attached to my wrists and without having caused an international incident, I have to say that the experience of Dubai is one that I would strongly recommend to every traveller. But take my advice, if you go on the desert safari, save the water for the homeward journey, or you might find yourself lying at the base of a sand dune looking up at a camel’s ass!