Since moving to Dubai almost 5 years ago (wow gulp) I have become more and more involved with helping the stray cats of Dubai and the UAE. Unbelievably its a big problem here, I can’t comment on what the root causes are but unchecked breeding of the local Arabian Mau cat population coupled with lost and abandoned pet animals has resulted in a neverending supply of cats needing sterilisation, vet care and eventual re-homing (for those that are tame enough). Its frustrating, upsetting, thankless work but happily it is also extremely rewarding, which makes up for the rest. Seeing that once stray animal reclining like a king (or queen) in its new home is one of the best sights in my opinion. As part of this effort Stu and I support the Feline Friends ball every year. Its a fun evening out combined with good food, dancing and some great prizes (the raffle is our firm favourite). All whilst raising money for a very good cause**.
This year we won, amongst other things, a mangrove tour for 2 in Abu Dhabi with a company called Noukhada, and a 6 month’s supply of cat food from Royal Canin. My usual MO on winning these prizes is great excitement, and then I pack everything away when we get home and promptly forget about it. I can’t tell you how many vouchers and prizes have expired un-used. So the other day I was scratching through the piles of rubbish on my desk when I came across this collection of “winnings”, largely forgotten. I also realised I had about 2 days left on the 3 month validity for the mangrove tour. So after a quick phone call I managed to book us in for the tour on the coming Saturday morning at 11. The lady on the phone also suggested we take the double kayak as we hadn’t really done any kayaking before. My only similar experience was trying to canoe on a very cold winter’s day in Joburg one year, where I promptly fell into the icy water, but that is another tale.
We arrived in the Eastern Mangroves in Abu Dhabi a little ahead of schedule. After signing our lives away on the usual indemnity type form we waited for our tour guide. We were joining another family of 5 – mom, dad and their 3 young boys – for our 1.5 hour tour. The tide was going out so we had a good chance to see some wildlife, although running aground on the sand bars was a real possibility. In retrospect a double kayak was probably not a good idea. The tour guide Matt suggested the brains go in front (to steer) and the brawn go in back. And that the person in the back follow the rhythm of the person in front. Well with both of us paddling we ended up miles in front of Matt and the Swedish family. So I basically stopped rowing for most of it as we just went too fast, and Stu and I kept hitting our paddles together as we were both trying to steer (no wonder our ballroom dancing lessons went so badly). Anyway, once we had all got the hang of it everything went smoothly. It was a windy day, and it rained on us for the second half of the tour, but no one was the least bit concerned about that – it was rare enough to be a novelty for us desert dwellers. We saw two types of crab and quite a few different bird species – like the Great Egret and Grey Heron. We saw loads of small fish, and of course the Mangrove trees, which are amazing in their own right. The trees actually filter the salt out of the water, it then is expelled via the leaves on the lower branches, which are all white in colour as a result. This gives the tree its name – Qurm or White Mangrove. The roots of the plant stick up into the air and at low tide are used for oxygen, whilst at higher tide they are covered by water. The small shore crabs live in the roots in a symbiotic relationship with the trees, making makes holes in the sand at the base of the plant allowing fresh tidal water in to cool the roots during the hot days. In return they eat the leaves – one of the only creatures that can digest them according to Matt (haven’t been able to confirm this). Whilst the tree is called a Mangrove the area where they live is actually called a Mangal.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day out, I would recommend it for anyone who likes outdoor pursuits, and especially with kids as they love being able to get wet and splash around in the mud.
Last week we also had some friends visiting us for the first time. I mean – its their first visit, not our first set of visitors. Haha. It has been another fun and busy week (there goes the diet) as we showed them as much as of the city as we could before they left again. To start off the entertainment we went to the new Cirque du Soleil show at the World Trade Center last weekend. Dralion is just brilliant. The clowns had us laughing out loud at their antics, and as always the feats of flexibility, grace and strength displayed by the performers are absolutely breath taking. Once again I left thinking that I must get my hands on the sound track. With two shows a night I’m in awe of the endurance of the participants – unless they have two groups of artists who work shifts. Anyone know? I think this show is doing a bit of a world tour from here, so if you have a chance to see this one then I would highly recommend it. The name is a combination of “dragon” and “lion” and the story follows four families (earth, air, fire and water) and each act represents one of those elements. This show focuses on 3,000 year old Chinese acrobatic philosophy and over half the cast are Chinese performers.
Some other numbers:
– 16,000 feet of fabric is used for the costumes in Dralion (and they are breath-taking).
– 50 different nationalities are represented.
– 100 million people worldwide have seen one of their performances.
– they have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
– they have performed 30 different shows overall.
I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day this year ♥, wow what’s next? Easter I guess. Where is the year going?
** if you would like to contribute a few spare dollars to my latest fund raising effort please do so. We are trying to sterilise a large colony of about 50-60 stray cats living in one labour camp in Dubai at the moment. Thanks in advance, and to all that have already contributed.