Sunday, February 20, 2011

Part 20 - Al Ain...

We had the choice of going to Al Ain fun city or the Al Ain zoo - fun city is an amusement park with plenty of rides; since it was something that I'd been to in my school days a few times and since my bro-in-law wasn't enthusiastic about rides, we opted for the zoo. We had lunch in a mall (Al Ain is a smaller city compared to Dubai and it has only 3 malls; it is kind of equi-distant from Dubai and Abu Dhabi; around 2 to 3 hours drive) - a combination of some Indian food and junk food. One of the advertised attractions was the presence of white lions which are almost extinct. The zoo was now called Wildlife Park and Resort.

We took the open top train ride to get a feel of the place; you'd certainly have a good amount to walk but it wasn't that huge; around 2 hours to cover by walk but with children it will take longer. The birds area was very nicely done - you could view the birds from outside through the nets or you could walk up the stairs, onto a wooden plank which went straight through the huge net within the birds area; I guess the birds in this enclosure weren't the ones that fly - there was a netting high up but the birds could certainly reach the pathway via which we walk. My nephew refused to walk the wooden ramp in the enclosure and when I went I was the only one inside with at least about 60 birds on the ground below me. Each seemed busy in their own daily routine and were hardly worried about the human stranger in their home. There were beautiful peacocks but even they didn't seem interested in flying up to the wooden ramp. It was a nice feeling, walking in that enclosure but a little scary as well when I recollected thoughts about Hitchcock's movie "Birds". A trainer was feeding a bird with some fishes - a bird that had a flexible mouth; check out the video.

The afternoon sun was beating on us. My niece got tired walking and so she and my bro-in-law halted in a rest area; it was good to have an air conditioned area in the middle of the zoo where people could take some rest. We drank some strawberry milk during the pit stop. In between we had some hide and seek with my nephew since he suddenly got angry and refused to walk - kids sometimes get into strong moods; I guess even adults are similar - don't you get into those up and down swings in emotions? We saw the white lions peacefully roaming about in their glass enclosure and then we came to the gorilla zone. There was this huge gorilla that had some fruits and a chicken leg lying near it. I guess it preferred non-veg food because it picked the chicken piece first in one hand and seemed to relish each bite. It ensured that what was left was only a bone and not a single piece of flesh - I don't think I've seen any person eat a chicken leg as clean as it did. It sat leaning lazily on to the glass panel and we had a good view of it enjoying its snack!

A new feature in the park was the dinosaur trail - it was like a mini Jurassic park and the dinos looked real; they were mechanical devices which had some movement along with a speaker that emitted some noises. The trail hardly took 15 minutes to complete; at the end there was a remote controlled little dino that visitors could play around with.

Next up was the bird show. There was a small open air amphitheater - we were the first ones to arrive. Slowly a little crowd filled in as the commentator started announcing about the show. The show was great - there were these bird trainers demonstrating the specialized ability of predatory birds. The birds flew from one checkpoint to another, from one trainer to another as the trainers used some kind of whistle and food to direct them - there were falcons, vultures and hawks. The show was certainly worth watching. And at the end we had the chance to take snaps with some of the birds.

Next up was Jebel Hafeet - a mountain around 1200 metres high, in the outskirts of Al Ain. The road up Jebel Hafeet was beautiful - even from the base we could see the road lit by lights in the darkness of the night. There are plenty of corners but the road is nice and wide. On the way up there is a hotel and right at the top is just an open air parking lot with a restaurant. My sister wasn't well; she had a stomach upset. It was nice standing at such an altitude and looking down at the lights in the city. After walking around the perimeter of the parking lot once, we began the descend downwards. Since my sister wasn't feeling good we stopped for the night in the Hilton in Al Ain; we did have a hard time finding it. After putting the stuff in our room, me and the two kids went down in search of dinner - it was around 10:30pm and well past dinner time. Some of the restaurants had already closed; there was an Italian one that was winding up for the night. The lady at the counter welcomed us even though it was clear that she was done for the day. I glanced at the menu and searched for something cheap - we settled on some pizza with fries. I appreciated the fact that she didn't try to rush us or decline our request. I signed the bill to charge it to our room; there was another outdoor Arabic restaurant beside a pool that was still open. We took a look at the recreation complex - but unfortunately for tennis we had to have our own rackets; in Fujairah they lent us a racket and tennis ball for playing.

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