x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Get trigger-happy on an alternative ladies’ night

What does a girl do when she wants an evening to be out of the ordinary? There's plenty to choose from, but let's start with shooting.

Kay Jones-Swift aims at the target on a ladies' shooting night. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National
Kay Jones-Swift aims at the target on a ladies' shooting night. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National

We’re privileged to live in a country with such an enviable selection of restaurants and other venues to choose from for a night out on the town. But when a meal at a five-star restaurant becomes the norm, what does a girl do when she wants an evening to be out of the ordinary?

A girlfriend had a suggestion for an activity that was sure to raise a few eyebrows – shooting. Though it’s more associated with the males of our species, shooting is also one of few sports that can be partaken by ladies on equal footing, and side by side with our male ­compatriots.

So, one summer evening, we four female shooting novices thought we’d give it a try at the Caracal Shooting Club, which is part of the Armed Forces Officers Club, Abu Dhabi. One can also opt to shoot at Al Forsan Sports Resort, or in Dubai at Jebel Ali Shooting Club (part of the Jebel Ali Golf Resort but 1.5km from the main resort.)

We expect to attract attention as a group of females trying out what we assume to be a male-dominated sport, but actually almost half the shooters present are female, so no one bats an eyelid. We chat to an Emirati shooter, Aisha, who has been coming to the club with her female work colleagues from the International Trade Organisation for the past 18 months and has already won several local ­competitions.

“The first time I tried shooting, I didn’t want to do it,” she admits. “It was a bit scary. But once the first bullet went out, I started to enjoy it. It challenges me and I think it also makes me feel more relaxed. When I’m under stress, I come shooting and it gives me more positive energy.”

After getting moral support and tips from Aisha, we undergo our mandatory 10-minute safety ­briefing.

It’s explained that we’ll be shooting live ammunition with a UAE-made, 750g caracal pistol. Apparently that’s light for a gun, but it feels heavy.

Then we put on headphones to muffle the sound and eye protection for when the bullet cartridges come hurtling back to us, before we warily enter the shooting area. You can choose to shoot distances of 10, 15, 20 and 25 metres – we start at 10 metres. I have mixed emotions about handling a weapon that conjures up movie images of blood-thirsty men who shoot to kill, but I’m also curious to know how it feels. I let my friends go first.

Pulling the trigger is daunting because I’m going against natural instincts that tell me it’s going to be deafeningly loud – and possibly fairly dangerous. In the milliseconds it takes to pull the trigger, the world stops moving. The skill lies in how focused you can be in that tiny, silent moment. I’m pumped full of nervous adrenalin and the force of the bullet makes my hands shake and my ears ring. I manage to hit near enough to the central target on my first try. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but I like to think I’ve unearthed a new talent. I’m definitely lacking the killer instinct to make a habit out of it, but I’m glad to have tried it once. The Dh255 that first-timers pay for 25 bullets in a 9mm gun is well worth it for an exhilarating buzz and a memory I’ll still be recounting in decades to come – for roughly the same price as one of those swanky dinners out with friends.

Caracal Shooting Club is at the Armed Forces Officers Club, Abu Dhabi. Call 02 441 5900 for more details

Other options

Learn how to make yummy chocolate treats

If you and your chums are chocoholics, why not organise a chocolate cooking class at the Shangri-La, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi. If you can persuade enough friends to form a group of about eight, it will cost you Dh150 per person for a five-hour session. The Shangri-La’s chocolate connoisseur takes you through a demo of basic techniques on how to make chocolate truffles, pralines and ganache. There’s also a quick movie session about chocolate. If there’s still space in your bellies, follow up with chocolate treats at nearby bar Pearls and Caviar – their chocolate fingers, white chocolate cheesecake and chocolate pot with vanilla bean cream are sure to satisfy any further cocoa cravings. Call 02 509 8888 for details.

Impress friends with your warbling

If you’ve never tried karaoke (singing into the hairbrush when getting ready for a night out doesn’t count), we recommend you leave your inhibitions at the door and hire a karaoke booth for a night out with friends (most accommodate up to 10 people). You’re given a menu of thousands of songs to choose from and the TV screen displays an accompanying cheesy video to chuckle over, complete with lyrics to help you out. Hibiki Karaoke Music Lounge at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dubai has Japanese- and Thai-themed booths, and a happy hour from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. To hire a booth for six, there’s a minimum spend of Dh1,000 and dishes that cater to a range of cultural tastes. Call 04 317 2222 to book.

Relive childhood memories on the ice

Ice-skating is a cool way to keep fit with friends, as you can hold each other up as well as help each other up when you fall over. Zayed Sports City Ice Rink in Abu Dhabi has a ladies night on Thursdays, though it tends to attract a younger crowd. More mature ladies might prefer to book a private group session at the rink; a group of four to six ladies is Dh80 each for a 30-minute lesson. Zayed Sports City has a South-east Asian restaurant called Noodle Bowl at Khalifa International Bowling Centre that comes highly recommended for refuelling afterwards and to rest those aching muscles that you may have forgotten existed. Call 02 403 4333 for more information.