There are only three roads out of Abu Dhabi. How hard can it be?" I told my husband and ferals happily as we left home one Friday morning aiming for the seaside town of Mirfa in Al Gharbia. "I think we head towards Mussafah and then we'll see the road." Ever since I went to the Western Region to write an article about women weavers there, I had wanted to come back with the family. It's so different from Abu Dhabi, almost another world. No traffic, lots of nature, lovely coastline. And we need to take advantage of the lovely weather.
So we were ready; picnic packed and some friends following us. The plan was to get there around 1pm and eat by the sea while the children ran around. It wasn't until Lucy, a friend following us, called and asked if we were sure we were going the right way that I started to doubt my sense of direction. Why I had ever trusted it in the first place is beyond me. Then I saw a sign for Mafraq. "We're fine," I said. "I'm sure I've seen Mafraq on the map. That's the right direction."
"You always say that," said Bea. Minutes later there was a diversion and we found ourselves heading towards Abu Dhabi once more, and this happened twice again. My husband passed the time telling his favourite story about how we almost got divorced on our first day of marriage after we left the hotel and drove for three hours around the Swedish countryside before ending up back where we started. Finally we ended up on the right road by heading towards Al Ain. In another hour, we were there.
"Are we back in Abu Dhabi?" quipped Olivia. The road into Mirfa is beautifully kempt; flowers line it all the way. We stopped the car by the sea and inhaled the fresh air while deciding where to picnic. The view was lovely: sand and a corniche with a walkway and lamp posts, a kind of mini Promenade Anglaise. Lucy got out of the car. She had been travelling alone with her three children all under the age of five and was ready to kill me. Happily she is too well brought up to murder anyone before lunch.
"Let's drive to the hotel and see what the beach is like there," she suggested. We followed signs to the Mirfa Hotel and ended up on a sand dune where they are constructing a new road. One of the few people we saw told us to drive up towards the highway and go round. No one was keen on yet more driving, so we went back to the seashore and ate our picnic. There was no one else around the breeze was cool and the sun warm. It was almost like being in Brighton except a lot warmer in January than it is there in June. The children ran around on the wooden benches and we watched the fishermen bring in their boats. The whole place felt like a sleepy little village.
I am pleased to report that the journey home went extremely quickly. In fact, Mirfa really is only just over an hour away, if you just follow the signs. Lucy, very wisely, refused to follow us. firstname.lastname@example.org