x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Teen life: School's over but seems likes sleep-ins will have to wait

School is over, the iron shackles unbolted. So my parents had the grand idea of setting out for a road trip on the first day of the holiday.

After months of gibbering vaguely about ''now that we are nearing the end of school'' in this column, school is over, the iron shackles unbolted. My parents had the grand idea of setting out for a road trip on the first day of the holiday. "Just a drive around the UAE coast," Mum declared brightly, "walk on the beach and see the mangroves."

Fun enough, I reckoned. What I didn't reckon was that I would be shaken awake at four in the morning because it'd be far too sunny for trotting around beaches and mangroves if we'd got up any later. So much for hopeful dreams of holidays being synonymous with sleep-ins. Grumbling and yawning, we set off, mum pointing out the lovely desert scenery which I'm sure was breathtaking if I'd been awake for half the journey on the Sharjah-Kalba road.

When I did wake up, it was with a bit of a shock - we were travelling around an imposing mountain pass that was a perfect setting for shoot-'em-up gangster flicks - think Bollywood hit Sholay. After a few moments of gazing rapturously at nature's glorious beauty, I stuck my head forward. "Can we stop at a washroom?"

"Oh, sure, let's just pull up on the highway in the middle of nowhere and conjure up a washroom with the magic wand you'll find in the picnic hamper," came the reply.

When we arrived at the stunning Khor Kalba, passing through Wadi Al Helo, we'd been hoping to stroll around the verdant mangrove islands, watching little crabs scuttle around our toes. It had been a long time since we'd last visited, though, because the area was a lot more developed and the crabs seemed to be long gone. As for the mangroves, a big red sign declared: "This area is closed for maintenance and development work from March 4, 2012 until further notice, sorry for disturbing."

Back into the car again and off to Khor Fakkan, where you could take a boat ride into the sea to admire the fjord-like landscape for Dh10. We met a lovely Emirati family, the only other occupants of the boat. The kids scrambled up in a single file first, while the man of the house gallantly helped the ladies up into the boat. Thanks to the Ask Ali feature, I knew exactly what to say admiring the littlest baby: "Mashallah!" Delighted, the mother handed the baby over to me. Expats often don't have opportunities to interact with Emiratis, but I know now why everyone has heard of their warmth and friendliness.

Clicking the obligatory seaside family photos to show bored guests later, we jumped into the car, covering the inside with bucketloads of sand. I tried to initiate a Disney singalong to the songs on my phone, but mum fell asleep and dad seemed in danger of doing so at the wheel. I shut up and watched the colours of the desert change from bronze to golden to silver as we passed through Dibba, Ras Al Khaimah and back home. "Can you paint with all the colours of the wind?" burbled my phone happily, playing the theme from Pocahontas. It did seem appropriate.

Lavanya Malhotra is a 17-year-old student in Dubai

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