Image via WikipediaThe news that small and perfectly formed Emirate Umm Al Qawain is to close all bars and nightclubs appears to signal a new, more conservative approach.
It seems to be something of a KT 'scoop', BTW.
Long a favourite weekend haunt for the Lebanese community, UAQ had two 'proper' hotels, a couple of improper hooch-holes and a marina and equestrian club. It also sported the 'UAQ Tourist Club', which evolved from a barasti bar and Friday barbecue joint (run by a quite insane-sounding German person with a white hat) to being a fully-fledged beachside leisure and hotel outfit.
I learned to ride at the Equestrian Club back in the '90s - it was part of the UAQ Marina - a 'dry' entertainment venue, but a pleasant enough place to while away a beach-side Friday. The place was run by 'old school' couple Suzie and Peter Wooldridge, Peter was ex-military and had previously been stationed in the UAE apparently. It will be a very long time indeed before I forget Suzie's posh Brit voice booming across the sandy expanse of the riding school, 'Mexicaaan reeeiiinnss Arleygzaaarndar! Meeeexicaan reiins!!!'.
It was a nice little club and the stables were responsible for rescuing a number of horses, including failed yearlings, rodeo horses and even a couple of shell-shocked Lebanese nutters that had survived Israeli bombardments in the civil war. It was always fun to 'draw' one of those in the 'which horse do I get today' sweepstake. You could tell you were getting a nutter because they had white marks around their necks where they had tried to slip their rope halters during the bombardment - it's a little known fact that brown horse hair grows back white over scarring.
(Don't you learn the most marvellous things from this blog now and then, huh?)
My favourite of all was a 21-year old lippizaner called Samir. A contrary old bastard, Samir had been a beginner's school horse for long enough to know every trick in the book about how to plod around the school at his own pace no matter how much you squeezed or hupped. There were only two ways to get him moving: feed him Pepsi before the lesson or give him a smart crack on the arse with the crop. Some days it'd take both. I'd constantly touch him in the wrong places with my clumsy beginner's feet and end up doing involuntary dressage step dances across the school. The real treat when the weather was good was taking off the saddles and riding the horses bareback into the lovely waters of UAQ creek for a post-ride bathe in the warm, salty water.
They had two camels there called Larry and Alexander that they'd trained to do dressage. Funny.
Back then, a great Friday would consist of a ride out followed by a trip up to the Tourist Club, a barbeque lunch and a beer or two, perhaps a schlep out onto the creek on a jetski or one of the Club's boats and then a toddle home.
And then Suzie and Peter had a falling out with 'authority' and left, Peter selling his Porsche for a knock-down 'quick sale' Dhs 10,000 (always regretted not going for that one). Soon after, the land by the riding school was converted into chalets which always had something of a whiff of sulphur about them. Chalets that appeared to serve a 'certain type' of tourism. I shall say no more at the risk of offending the many sensitive and gentle souls amongst my readers.
I suspect the appearance of those chalets was pretty much when the rot started to set in. The KT news that some '25 nightclubs' were to be involved in the March 1st shutdown order came as something of a shock. 25 nightclubs? In lovely, quiet Umm Al Qawain?
The nightclub cleanup's fine by me, but I do hope they'll be leaving the 'old' outlets there - something that the KT story doesn't clarify.
People used to go up there and enjoy themselves quietly, not distressing, upsetting or disturbing anyone as they enjoyed the beaches and the rich marine life of the huge UAQ creek (turtles, marlin and mangroves).
And nobody, certainly, needed to worry about the provenance of the young lady accompanying you... But then I suppose they were more innocent times, no?