If there was one thing that is certain as far as itinerary is concerned for this two-day Eid Break in the United Arab Emirates, it was the meetup and badminton queuing with “Mah Fren” Ronald in Sharjah. That term of friendly endearment was coined just for him when he was still in Riyadh.
Ronald is soft-spoken but bold; hates the gym but love sports; and is generally irreproachable. The thing I like about him the most is being a man of his word. He will be the first person in mind whom I want to reach out for a short-notice plan. The good relationship I had established during his stint in Riyadh was the secondary reason.
One of my then travel buddies, Roland, tagged along because he has got nothing to do that day anyway. Fares went somewhere else.
Ronald arrived at the hotel on time. Good thing we already had our heavy breakfast prior to his arrival. His punctuality is really impeccable. What got me though at that time was his blue sports car. I never knew his thing about cars is really grand. I felt like I was a national player while being tucked in the passenger seat on our way to the Badminton Court at Capital School in Dubai.
It took almost half an hour to get there. The host (club) was quite accommodating; I and Roland immediately blended in. None of the players seemed beginner level so I hesitated to go all the way during the first match. The fighting spirit and the determination to bring my practice and, at the same time, therapy (“Journey to the Other Side” – Road to Surgery and Recovery) to the next level though made me play and keep up to the intended level.
For the first time and after a month of playing at the “beginners” level since the first weekend of May, I played eight (8) matches with no uneasy feeling.
It was an honor to have played with Ronald, who used to be my badminton partner for tournaments in Riyadh, at length. The same goes for the rest of his club members who were perfectly obliging. Roland had remarked the same.
To be paired with their F5-F1 players, especially to lodis Mandy Roque and Ron Ramos, was truly an opportunity. The queuing system was commendable, I must say.
A little bit later, Ronald, Roland, Ron, and I headed to the company’s extension in Sharjah for a quick visit and swung by our counterparts’ apartment for some refreshments.
Only Ronald and I headed straight to Dubai Marina afterwards—while Roland and Ron went somewhere else to meet their another group of friends. The former was something I discovered towards the end of a short stroll (with Ronald) along Dubai Marina’s paved walkway. The activities were to watch the sunset and a catch-up over dinner cruise in the evening.
The latter was actually a surprise and I truly…was.
I can now say that Ronald certainly knows a few things about what put me at my happiest.
Letting me feast on the sunset was one thing.
The two-hour Dhow Cruise Dinner was another.
As the sun was in motion for its final descent, a motley of minuscule lights began to envelop the area and turn traditional wooden boats into iconic restaurants.
There were magical moments that did not escape my optical organs and wandering mind in between the creeping of flickering lights and the fading of sunset colors in the distant horizon during the two-hour cruise.
The transition of the scenery is a given, but what really comprised the kind of moments I was referring to were the seemingly audible chatter and laughter of people around and the olfactory spank of spice-filled air unknowingly partaken in by the crowd.
The cruise over Dubai Marina paved the way for us to catch up and have a real conversation (i.e., no holding of phones at all) in an open air upper deck with some good food, drinks, and traditional forms of entertainment.
Subsequently, Ronald and I decided to do cursory shopping at Deira Souks Abra Station. The scenes therein elevated my awareness of life’s riveting subtleties when we were approaching the creaking jetties. A busy reality unfolded my eyes the moment I saw the coxswain pulled the rope from the manual boat’s motor to turn the engine over. A blast from the past!
There was a sudden blow of life’s simplicity and it just hit me in the most sentimental way—when the boat was cruising its way to the other side. For a moment, I was transported to my childhood days when the family used to visit our grandparents and relatives at the opposite bank of Cagayan River from time to time.
I was stunned at the very existence of the place because it dawned on me how fortunate we are to see a place that bridges the past to the present and serves as a doorway to the city’s more colorful future at the same time.
This momentary trip across the waters of Dubai Marina, which was once a highway to the East for trading purposes, made me step back in time. There was just so much life there.
I bought some stuff for the inner circle in Riyadh and grabbed a few photos of the busy souks and of the serene parts too.
That juncture made me speechless for a few minutes until Ronald enthused a comment in order to break the silence.
A few hours more and the sky has finally turned into a black tranquility. Ronald received a text message from Ron inviting us for a cup of coffee at Al Ghurair Centre in Deira.
Suffice to say we capped the night off with another engaging conversation with something to sip on the table. There was no better way to do it.
We were back inside the hotel half past midnight. Our bodies were called to rest and go to its rhythm.
During the morning, Fares, Roland, and I had another heavy breakfast before hitting the road by quarter past nine.
When everyone was settled in the car, I ruminated about the events from the past two days while sipping a cup of hot mocha—which I bought from The Starbuck’s On the Go kiosk at a gasoline station store in Abu Dhabi—en route to Riyadh.
“The kiosk is a convenient self-serve experience that offers premium espresso with fresh dairy, and requires minimal operational effort” (solutions.starbucks.com). I was amused at it because it was my first time to see and “operate” one. I hope it will also get to Riyadh very soon.
Meanwhile, the rumination led me to asking myself about what makes this trip meaningful and compelling?
Playing badminton as well as watching the sunset along Dubai’s old skyline with one of my best friends; experiencing an authentic Arabian boating with life lessons and poetic realizations on the side; capping that night off with a cup of coffee, great talk, and friends…Need I say more?
My first visit to the UAE showed me the impressive architectural wonders in the heart of Dubai. It also connected me to the local culture and community by learning about its history from the few museums I visited and the people I interacted with during the city tour. This time around, it made me forge a stronger connection to some of the places and the people.
My gratitude to Ronald, of course, and the people who dragged me to this long weekend getaway for the Eid Holidays. It was definitely a good decision after all and I will come back when the opportunity presents itself again.
Top Things To Do in Dubai in November 2018 (passionfordubai.com)
5 Best Neighborhoods for Tourists to Stay in Dubai (passionfordubai.com)
Dubai travel guide: 20 things that will surprise first time visitors(traveller.com.au)
What Dubai Taught Me And The 10 Things You Should Experience There Too (aworldtotravel.com)
Why It’s Great to Travel Without a Plan (nomadicmatt.com)