Tag Archives | beach

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabat): لقطة السبت

True, it’s Sunday. But I took the photo on Saturday, which must count for something.

When people visit Abu Dhabi, mostly they see big shiny buildings, and big shiny malls, and big shiny hotels. It’s the land of big shiny things, except when you’re in the desert, and then it’s the land of vast and shining sand (and the sand really does shine, sometimes blindingly).

On Saadiyat Beach, when you walk away from the hotels, however, you leave the big shiny behind: rocks pile up, probably raked away from the tourist beaches; the cranes swing above the site of what will eventually be the Louvre; and debris from who knows where comes to rest.

No, that’s not my soccerball football, or my flipflop, and yes that’s a water-logged pineapple down there in the corner.


Continue Reading · on January 19, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, environment, surat al-sabt saturday snapshot

Mirissa Whale Watch I: Tail Up!

We just got back from a family trip (different from a vacation, remember that) in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is one of those places that I’d never really thought about before, other than knowing it used to be called Ceylon, and is the little earring that hangs off the southern tip of India.

I had been casting about for a spring break trip–we didn’t have a lot of time, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and we needed to please all the constituencies (see above on “family trip”)–and Sri Lanka fit the bill perfectly.  Off we went, on a flight that left two hours late, with one child exhausted from two nights performing in his four-hour long school play, and the other child with strep throat and a system full of antibiotics.  We were accompanied on this flight by a chorus of infants doing a roundelay of misery pretty much from the moment they entered the airplane until the moment they disembarked.

All woes were forgotten (mostly) when we reached Mirissa, a tiny surfing town on the southern tip of Sri Lanka:


Here’s why I chose Mirissa:


My children still haven’t recovered from the Bataan Death March through Paris museums two summers ago, so a culture-vulture trip wasn’t going to work–but I wanted more than just sitting on the beach. Thus: whales. One of the major migratory routes for blue whales, sperm whales, and all manner of other fishy mammals, goes along the Sri Lankan coast, and although the end of March is near the conclusion of the migration season, we’d probably still be able to see at least Something Big.

Whale watch day one went like clockwork.  Up at dawn, onto the boat, sunscreen applied, and out into the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Caleb regaled me with whale facts: a blue whale’s heart is the size of a small Volkswagen, a whale’s tongue can weigh almost two tons.  We spent a few minutes wondering about a two-ton tongue and then: dolphins off the port bow!

Ooh, and ahh, and aren’t the dolphins cute, but where are the whales?

As if in response, gleaming endlessly out of the water, a dark blue back, with a ridiculously tiny dorsal fin:


I looked out at this creature and realized why old seafaring maps are decorated with pictures of sea monsters; I also gained a much deeper appreciation for what it meant to be a whaling ship in the 19th century: scanning the ocean for a whale is the aquatic version of looking for a needle in a haystack, even if the needle does weigh upwards of 100 tons.

But fate and cetacean were willing, so day one of whale-watching was a big success: dolphins, flying fish, and a blue whale who dove and surfaced with regal disregard for the cluster of whale-watching boats bobbing the requisite 100 meters away.  At each dive, the guides on the boat called out “tail up! tail up! tail up!” so that we camera-laden tourists could get the money shot:


We were on the water from about 7AM to 11AM and as we put-putted back to the harbor, we applauded ourselves for having the foresight to make a second whale-watching reservation the next day.  If we saw a whale on this outing, then of course we’d see more whales the next day. Right? I mean, what could go wrong with that plan?


Continue Reading · on April 5, 2013 in environment, expat, family, Kids, Travel

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabt) لقطة السبت


Abu Dhabi city stretches along the Arabian Gulf, so on one side of the Corniche Road is beach and blue water; on the other side are glass-clad towers.  The city has expanded the beach recently, and this new stretch of sand has just opened. The man in the chair is a lifeguard.  But by about 11AM, when I took this picture, it’s too hot to be at the beach. Even the water is hot.

Continue Reading · on September 15, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, surat al-sabt saturday snapshot, urban nature

the men from the boys

So we’re at the beach. Liam has a shovel and begins to dig.

Husband: are you making a sandcastle?

Liam: Nope. Digging a hole.

Husband: Just digging a hole? No castle?

Liam: Nope. Just a hole.

Husband: What about a tunnel?

Liam: Nope.

Husband: Who just digs a hole?

Liam: Me. I just want to dig a hole.

Husband: But why?

Liam: Because. It’s going to be a really deep hole.

And there it is. The difference between men and boys isn’t necessarily the price of their toys. It’s why you dig.




Continue Reading · on August 16, 2012 in Children, family

it’s not politics, just a day at the beach

It’s been a cold winter here and a cold spring. Even now, in the middle of March, it’s only 73F and usually, by now, the temperature hovers in the low 80s.  Weather, here, seems to mean two things: wind and sand.  Sometimes the sand hangs so thickly in the air it looks like fog…and then you realize that everything is coated with a thin film of grit: hair, clothes, shoes, skin, eyelids.

The other day, though, the wind stopped blowing and the sand settled down, so we went to the Corniche for ice cream and a walk along the beach.  Everyone else in the city had the same idea, which meant the beach become an easy illustration of all the different types of people who call this city home.

Everyone has to be warned about how to dress:

But people define “appropriate” in all kinds of different ways:

Ah the banana hammock. I contemplated showing this man the sign about “appropriate,” but I’m not sure he’d see things my way. Gotta love that European unselfconsciousness, right?

Others, however, prefer a more modest masculine bathing ensemble:

After the picture was taken, these guys took turns dunking one another; there was much splashing and sputtering, although from the looks of it, none of them knew how to swim.

A more sedate group chose to watch from the beach:

Yes, they are wearing actual bikinis. Right there, on the public beach.  No one ogled them, no one scolded them, no stones were thrown.  Down at the water’s edge, meanwhile, these women were also enjoying the day:

So were they:

I don’t want to get all sentimental and over-dramatic–it was just an afternoon at the beach, after all–but spending time with all these different people, all sharing the same narrow patch of sand, I found myself feeling weirdly optimistic about the fate of the world.  I mean, what would happen if we all decided to just…get along?


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Continue Reading · on March 13, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Politics, UAE, urban nature, What’s It Like?

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