Sunday, 8 May 2011


Sean ConneryCover of Sean ConneryI did something relatively atypical at the weekend -  I went to see a play staged at the Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club, Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers'.

The bar at Wanderers had been converted to a tiny venue and a stage had been set up. With no more than fifty or sixty people in the room, the enthusiastic audience and the surprisingly excellent performances really did have something of the feeling of an English country community bash - even if some Ozzies had snuck in somehow.

How odd to find oneself in Dibley, smack in the heart of Sharjah.

Wanderers is somewhere I have always rather snootily avoided, but it's under new management and there has apparently been a remarkable effort to transform a grim sad luck drinking dive into a community-centric sports club. This is no bad thing as Wanderers is the one place in Sharjah where people can go to 'socialise'.

Sharjah used to be famous for its socialising. Believe it or not, people would drive from Dubai to Sharjah for the night out. Hotels like the, sadly now demolished, Aladdin hosted stars like Sean Connery, who'd stop off on the way over to Australia and have a few. Al Wahda Street used to be a bustling hive of nocturnal activity. And Sharjah's Intercontinental (nowadays its the Radisson Blu), which was the first hotel I'd ever seen to have an indoor garden (decades before the Grand Hyatt Dubai), was one of several thriving hotels with 'facilities'.

When things changed, there were three places left standing. The Dive Club, Wanderers and the infamous Blue Shark. The latter was a speakeasy ran by a bunch of chaps working shifts on the rigs.

Now all that's left is Dibley. Maybe I've been an expat too long, but I quite enjoyed my visit there and would happily go back, one of the days. No rush, but I've lost the sense of embarrassment at being seen near the place that's limited my visits in twenty years to no more than five incursions.
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