My medical college classmates are celebrating 41 years of friendship with a get together in Dubai. The rest of the group arrived on Sunday and Monday. I am two days late. My flight touches down on time this morning. I have to get to the hotel before nine as the tour group is meant to leave the hotel by then.
A malayalee taxi driver is waiting at the airport to pick me up. This cheers me up immensely. He tells me that we should make it in time. “Visit the miracle garden” he advises me. “Yes, that’s our first stop for today”, I reply.
I arrive at the hotel as my friends are making their way to breakfast. My check in time is not till this afternoon, but at the reception they check me in early and hand me my room keys. Rafia rushes out to greet me. My tiredness dissipates when I see the rest of the smiling faces. I go to my room to freshen up and come down to meet all the family. More excited greetings and photo sessions later we are ready to start the day.
The first stop is the Miracle Garden. It is almost ten before we finally get going. A short ride later we reach the gardens. From the outside we get an idea of what’s in store. A dreamworld filled with colourful flowers. Routine everyday flowers that you see hung on hanging baskets during the summer months in England and the flowers that brighten up the window boxes in Bavaria. The whole place is a mishmash of colours with a bit of greenery peeking through. In between giant topiary sculptures of green elephants, cats and swans line the pathway. Topiary characters from Disney fill one corner. Cottages, a castle and even an Emirates Airbus covered in an array of colourful flowers fill the rest of the space.
The garden is not extensive and doesn’t take long to walk around but the whole plot is filled with bursts of vibrant petals and houses the world’s tallest topiary structure, a floral display of Mickey Mouse. A heart shaped passage covered in blooms provide another photo opportunity.
In between there is plenty of time to sit and meet all the friends and their families including grand kids and savour Rafia’s treats, one of many as I find out later, mine a cold mango crush.
Next a lunch stop followed by some souvenir shopping. Trinket shopping can be such tiring work, but we don’t have enough time to squeeze in a coffee shop stop. Rafia finds a way to order a cup of tea each for the thirsty troops. A guy arrives with a tea dispenser and soon we are all sipping our hot sweet drink before boarding our respective coaches to make the final trip of the evening, the desert safari.
I have been there, done it before, but still enjoy the dune bashing as it is referred to. It is more of a gentle one compared to the real deal according to some who have experienced the whole shebang. The sun is just disappearing in the horizon as the driver of the four wheel drive drops us off at the entertainment area. We wait in the queue for our turn to ride the camels. A single guy with four tired camels tied to each other take us around. The camels seem quite uninterested as they work the same routine, sitting, letting two people climb on top of them, standing, walking around in a circle, sitting, letting them off and then repeating the whole drill again and again till the never ending queues finish and crowds disperse to enjoy the food and evening of belly dancing and fire breathing acts.
The entertainment on our coach is offered by Beena’s Babu annan, who single handedly competes with the rest of the group with his ‘antakshari’ skills and knowledge of old Malayalam songs. While the rest of us join Beena and sing along to the golden oldies we also wonder whether this is how Beena and her husband converses at home.
Our day of fun comes to an end and we look forward to more tomorrow.