United Arab Emirates

Blog - March 2020

Previous Blog: Saudi Arabia

Wednesday March 4th - Al Mirfa

Now that I was out of the desert my mission today was to take things a little easier. My past 10 days of cycling I've been averaging long distances each day which is not sustainable in the long run. You'd think it would be easy to not cycle far but I ended up cycling further than I ever have in a single day. 207km. How can this happen? Well the combination of a lovely tailwind and a long, flat, deadly boring road. I knew this section towards Abu Dhabi would be dull. I just figured I'd get as much of it out of the way as possible whilst the wind was behind me. People sometimes ask me back home if I ever get bored. The truth is rarely. Life is easier when you are a simpleton. I think I have a high boredom threshold. It comes from working long shifts as an office security guard when I was a youngster. Where all you do is just stand there for 12 hours. I would challenge myself not to look at my watch for 30 minutes and when I was utterly convinced I had managed it I would look and see 9 minutes had passed. That's boredom. Today I was bored though. I admit it. Busy road. Straight as an arrow. I barely turned my handlebars all day and only changed gear once. Just pure pedalling but I was glad to tick off the kilometres and camped in a giant culvert underneath a rail-track to shelter from the wind.

Thursday March 5th - nr Abu Dhabi

Forced myself to have an easy day today. The wind was gone. I tootled along the highway for a bit. Had a wash in the bathroom of a mosque. Left the main road and found a dirt road dissecting enormous salt plains stretching away forever in all directions. It was bliss after the highway. Didn't see a single vehicle for the rest of the day. So quiet. Just me and a few seagulls. The road finally led down to the coast and I camped by the sea. Popular fishing spot with the Abu Dhabi skyline away in the distance.

Friday March 6th - Al Jurf Forest

When I put my head out of my tent the shore was lined with fishermen. It was still dark. Not just lone fishermen. Families were running around, making fires, preparing breakfast. The fishermen with their hooks, lines and sinkers already set up. I could see why. They were catching plenty. None were getting thrown back. I cycled alongside them for an hour before rejoining the main road into Abu Dhabi. There is an industrial city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi and all the trucks head there so the city is surprisingly quiet to cycle through. Abu Dhabi is impressive. Lots of architectural wizardry on show. Every building has mad curves. Transparent offices shaped like water slides, enormous circular skyscraper hotels and some seriously funky bridges. All very opulent but nothing that can hold a torch to the Toastrack in Fallowfield, Manchester. Most impressive of all is the Grand Mosque. Seen a lot of mosques over the last couple of months but none better than the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Gives the Taj Mahal a run for it's money. Carried on into the city centre. Abu Dhabi is pretty slick but not really my cup of tea. It smells of money. I smell of other things. I was definitely the worst dressed person in the city. I felt a little self conscious in my sand stained shirt, salt stained shorts and leggings with ever increasing holes in them. I won't even mention my socks. I can't afford a hotel here so I had a coffee and passed through. Nice cycle across the bay to get out of the city. Headed for a forest on the way to Dubai to find somewhere to camp. The forest on either side of the road was completely walled off. A high wall with barbed wire. Trees being a bit of a rarity in this part of the world they seem to be heavily protected. I was struggling to find anywhere to camp that wasn't right next to the road. I ended up pitching my tent in the middle of a roundabout. Never done that before. Normally it would be an appalling option but no one heads into a walled off forest. The road was so quiet I slept fine.

Saturday 7th to Monday 9th March - Dubai

I couldn't see an option to get close to Dubai that didn't involve the highway. A 5 lane motorway with quite clear No Cycling signs. Sorry. Quite clear Minimum Speed 60km/hr signs. Sorry. Went into time trial mode to get it done before I got arrested. Took the first option I could to get off and take back roads into Dubai proper. Dubai is a place I never thought I'd visit. I don't know what I'm doing here to be honest. The only valid reason is that Dubai has good quality bicycle shops and my rear tyre is wearing down and I need new brake pads. Took a road on the outskirts of the city with great views of the Dubai skyline. There seem to be about 3 Dubai skylines. I was heading for the final one. Skyscraper heaven if you like that kind of thing. You can get reasonable priced hotels here so I'm going to take a couple of days rest before heading to Oman.

Tuesday 10th March - Al Ain

I left Dubai in good shape. Rested legs, clean clothes, new tyre, new brake pads and looking pretty dapper in a new cycling top! A hole in the back of my old cycling top was causing me the same sized sunburn mark in a place I cannot reach to apply suncream. Another uninspiring day of cycling in UAE as I boshed along a highway towards the Oman border. Expectations were low for cycling in the UAE. Expectations were met. I'll be glad to get out of here. There's nothing wrong with the country. I can see why expats flock here. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are clean, smart, all mod-con cities with wall to wall sunshine for most of the year but from a cycling point of view it's as dull as it gets.

Continue: Oman