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Published: June 26th 2017
Temp: 86F 27C
Distance travelled: 334 nautical miles
I'm not normally one to go for the seminars and lectures on board (I get enough of them at home and in work!!) but I thought I'd try the first in a series of seminars by Marianne and Peter from Ulm in Germany. They are the guys that Jim and Margaret shared the taxi with yesterday in Abu Dhabi. I don't know if it was the schadenfreude in me but I just wanted to see if the ordeal had affected them!! Marianne and Peter split their time by living in Texas as well as their home town. Peter started by sharing a few words of wisdom from his hero, Albert Einstein who happened to be born in the next street to him!!
Their first seminar was about all things Arabian. They used a power point presentation with a mix of slides and movie to emphasise their points. A lot of aerial maps depicted the Arabian Peninsula via satellite courtesy of Peter's mate who happened to work for NASA. Despite English not being their first language, Peter and his wife did remarkably well even when the tannoy announced an exercise in
the event of an unauthorised hijack situation to commence in 15 minutes. Forgive my ignorance but is this as opposed to an authorised hijack??! We, the passengers were to await further instructions.
Lucky, the seminar was almost at an end so, as the last exercise Roisin and I were involved in, was conducted in the Broadway Theatre, I decided to stay put. A few others seemed to have the same idea. Several moments later, one of the ship's officers entered the theatre and asked a couple on the next block of seats to me what they were doing here.
"We're waiting for the 'Pirate' exercise',
came the reply.
The officer was not impressed. ‘You have to wait for the announcement from the bridge. You can't just come down here before the exercise has started!'
Without waiting for a response for the dumbfounded guests, he stormed off. As he was making his way up the stairs of the theatre, other guests had already started making their way in to the theatre. A few minutes later I was joined by Roisin.
‘For exercise, for exercise, Romeo, Hotel, Alpha, blue code, blue code', announced the public address system. There
was no sign of any crew joining us in the theatre. Still we waited further instruction.
‘For exercise, for exercise, Romeo, Hotel, Alpha, orange code, orange code'. Still we waited.
10 minutes later: ‘For exercise, for exercise, Romeo, Hotel, Alpha, red code, red code'.
This was starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book ‘Blue, fish Red fish, one fish, two fish!!'
Another few minutes and we got the green code, then the all clear. The announcer thanked everyone for their participation (in 6 different languages, of course!) This left everybody bemused as no one was any the wiser as to what had just happened. No one came on the stage to explain what the procedure was. Was the pirate exercise just for the crew and all the passengers were shoved into the theatre so they wouldn't get in the way?? We learned later that in the event of an attack we have to follow the ‘highly' trained staff to deck 4 and stay away from windows, port holes and exits. I don't remember all this happening 2 years ago ‘back in the day'.
Then I seem to remember getting a cutlass thrust in my hand and
doing a conga around the top deck…oh! Wait! That was the Pirate and Buccaneers party the entertainments crew organised!!
Tonight was the 1st
of 4 gala nights. This evening is ‘get your photo taken with the Captain'
night. I recognised the name Raffaele Ponte. When I saw his photo on the in house TV that introduces you to the senior staff and heads of Department, we both recognised him as the very first Captain that took us around the Baltic on the MSC Opera in 2009. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we got talking to a couple from Eastbourne who had just come out of the show and couldn't rate it highly enough saying that it was excellent value unlike other shows they have seen on supposedly more upmarket cruise lines. High praise indeed. With this, we missed our spot with the Captain!!
The show, the first one of the cruise was a variety of song and dance with colourful costumes as well as a unicycle juggler and some Chinese bendy people. There are normally 2 shows each evening. One at 6:30 for those who are on late dining and a show at 9:30 for those of us on early
On the last few cruises we have bumped in to at least 1 person we know. Other than Rafa the Captain, Roisin bumped in to Joe Magic. He dresses like a sort of Italian version of Timmy Mallet but where a Timmy Mallet doesn't really serve any purpose to anyone over 5 years old, Joe Magic is a dab hand at arts and craft and Roisin was his star pupil 2 years ago. He remembered Roisin and with great fondness of a long lost niece, greeted her with open arms and a cry of ‘Bella! Bella!'
As we exited the theatre at about 10:15pm we noticed a crowd gathered on deck so we ventured out to see what all the commotion was. Less than ½ mile of the starboard was clearly visible the street lights of a coast road and more notably the lights of a small town. The rumours were flying around. ‘It looks like we're back in Dubai',
I heard one passenger say with a voice of authority to his wife. ‘Do you think it was too dangerous to carry on after today's activities?'
said another with a genuine air of concern in her voice. ‘It could be that we've just arrived in Khor Fakkan!!'
Roisin said to me in a rather loud but sarcastic tone directed at me but so others could overhear. ‘Don't be daft',
I replied in an equally sarcastic and best ham actors voice I could muster as if I was reading from a script. ‘The daily programme says we don't arrive until 08:30 tomorrow morning. Perhaps we have already been captured by Pirates and they have towed us to Dead Man's Cove in Hispaniola!'
‘No, it's Khor Fakkan',
someone then announced. ‘I've just asked the crewman' ‘I thought it was!!' exclaimed the man who originally proclaimed that we were back in Dubai.
At this point Roisin could see that I was about to say something that I may later have to rely on in court so she did the correct thing and dragged me inside!!
Khor Fakkan is a town located along the Gulf of Oman on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The town, the second largest on the east coast after Fujairah and is set on the picturesque bay of Khor Fakkan, which means "Creek of Two Jaws" in
Khor Fakkan is a small town that is surrounded by rocky hills. Rocky Hills sounds like it should be the name of an overweight Australian 70s TV detective!! The hills are very craggy and devoid of any vegetation but, in my view, too small to be classed as mountains. The smaller of the hills gives the impression of manmade slag heaps!!
The tourist literature states a notable person born here was Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al-Qadi Banihammad otherwise known as one of five 9/11 hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 175. I don't think the Khor Fakkan Tourist Board have really embraced the whole tourism thing that is likely to bring the hordes flocking. I could do their job for them. How about this strap line: ‘Fak me! It's Khor Fakkan. What a nice place to spend your holidays! (And we definitely have no ties to Al Quaida!!)'
In a lot of these Middle Eastern ports, it is not allowed to walk in the port area so free shuttle buses are provided that take you to the port gate. It this case, the shuttle bus dropped us at the fish market at the start of the
Corniche. We took a shortcut through this fish market. The smell was overpowering probably due to the counters having yet to be wiped down. There was still a fair amount of blood and guts strewn around the place. One fishmonger was beating the crap out of something with a big stick but we couldn't see what it was as he was behind a counter. I'm assuming it was a large fish and not one of his employees caught sleeping on the job!!
It didn't take us long to realise that this town didn't really have a lot going for it. When there are only 3 choices of organised tour from the ship of which one is a trip to a nearby hotel where you can relax by the pool, enjoy their spa facilities and have a buffet lunch and pay €40 for the privilege, things must be desperate. Who would pay for this when all the above is free on board!!
We continued to walk along the Corniche past what supposed to be a park. This was a narrow but lengthy strip of land between the promenade and the beach that had a line of trees down the
centre of this strip. I also noticed that there weren't many tufts of grass in this park but there was a small play area for kids consisting of the old tyre for a swing trick!! How many trees and blades of grass does an area need before it can be classed as a park? As Roisin pointed out, the central reservation on the highway has probably more of a claim to be classed as a park than the ‘park'!!
Across the road there stood, what looked like the crumbling remains of a series of buildings. ‘Perhaps that's the remains of the old fort that was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 17th century',
said Roisin. ‘If it is',
I started, ‘then they must have been ahead of their time. I don't recall reading about the knights of Yore and the 999 TV channels they can get through satellite TV!'
I quipped pointing at the large if not rusted and battered dishes bolted to where the roof used to be. ‘Perhaps, they're rusty and battered to blend in with the rest of the décor!'
suggested Roisin although I couldn't help thinking she was being somewhat facetious!
heading back, our excursion culminated in a visit to a local super market where I bought a couple of casual shirts, some after sun and moisturiser (for Roisin, not me) and the whole thing came to about £12!
On our way back along the Corniche we bumped in to Captain Ponte who was talking to some locals who were sanding behind a wire mesh. It turns out they were excavating some long lost building of a bygone civilisation. I was going to ask the Commandante for a photo as we missed out on the one last night but I thought ‘leave the man be'.
He is probably worn out after all that hand shaking and smiling and just out for a peaceful stroll.
On deciding to take a diversion from the coast road further in to the town it wasn't long before we entered a suburb of Khor Fakkan called Al Khaledya. It seemed to be very residential and the name resembled an organisation that Mr Banihammad was alleged to be a member. We hastily tracked back on to the Corniche and continued to the ship via the free shuttle service.
Later in the day we got
talking to a couple from Wales. I had been referring to the man as Barry u
ntil I realised they were FROM Barry!! Apparently they took a private taxi tour. The driver took them to a mosque then to an old fort before visiting another mosque. After seeing even an older fort they finished up at a souk where the taxi driver's relatives had stalls. ‘If we had have known we would just be visiting mosques and forts we wouldn't have bothered. 'We have forts and mosques back in Barry, we do!'
The people we have met on this trip are nothing if not entertaining!!
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