The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven individual states, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. While the geography of the seven states doesn’t change significantly the customs and culture of the states can be very varied.
Abu Dhabi, the capital, is home to about a third of the estimated population of five million, Dubai another third and the remainder of the inhabitants is spread among the other five Emirates.
Naturally when spending a stint in the Middle East, visiting each of the seven Emirates is often on the to-do list of expats. Living in the capital Abu Dhabi it can refreshing to leave the hustle bustle of city life and take a trip to say, Dubai. Not exactly a break from urban life, but by far the most glittering of the Emirates and my personal favourite destination when exploring the UAE. Not having wanderlust as such but possessing a weak spot for luxury and opulence , Dubai to date has been the full extent of my travel in the UAE to date, that is until recently when I was tricked on a trip to Ras al Khaimah. “Beware the value Groupon voucher for it will take you off the beaten track”
“Five star resort” it read, “all-in exclusive package” it read, “view overlooking the Corniche” it read, ignoring the small print and clicking ahead to my waterloo, I found the deal was for Ras Al Khaimah and not on my usual circuit of Abu Dhabi /Dubai. Willing to throw good money after bad, I booked the trip and decided to look on it as an adventure, the great unknown, it could turn out to be the best family trip ever!, I thought, as even the voice in my head quivered. Over an hour past Dubai heading north, we entered RAK and stopping only once on the approach road to allow the goats to pass on the highway, my fervor faltered. Even the goats looked weary as they sauntered across the lonesome highway followed by tumbleweed and a gust of sand. Driving around the low rise cluster of shoddy buildings which was called a city, we decided that the stay in RAK would be a brief one.
It would be narrow-minded to suggest that the only good thing about Ras Al Khaimah is the low cost bottle shop, Barracuda which is just outside the town, in the middle of nowhere, down a dirt track at the back of a clapped out beach resort. There it stands, a true oasis. All the beer, wine and spirits one would ever want at discount prices. So in an effort to salvage the disappointing trip, we stocked up, filling the boot to capacity and then a few more bottles at the kids feet. I reiterate, this was done only as an effort to salvage the wasted trip.
Bottles on board, we revved up and left RAK and everything it wasn’t for dust. We took off for the two hour trip home to Abu Dhabi via Dubai. It was after the signage stopped saying Dubai and Abu Dhabi and started saying Sharjah and Oman that it became apparent we had taken a wrong turn. It was after the sign read, “Welcome to Sharjah” that panic started to creep into the car and it when we passed the same building three times that we realised we were lost in Sharjah with three hungry kids and a boot full of booze. This was enough of an issue but the fact that Sharjah was a dry state with strict laws on alcohol possession was a bigger problem. “Any alcohol brought into the state for personal consumption should not be visible”, this was also an issue as our stash was probably visible from space. Luckily for us, there were no laws on starving kids so we were ok on that front. With each wrong turn the bottles clinked in the back, a cheeky reminder of the consequence of gluttony.
It was when the police car pulled us over and said, “you broke green light” that the beads of sweat began to roll down my forehead. “I’m sorry” I said, in the hope that he had stopped me for an apology. The Dh 500 fine was never more welcome and so relieved were we to get away with the smuggle that we all cheered and the kids even forgot they were hungry, it had turned out to be a great family weekend after all.