And away we went. Two out became three, and we took a wrong turn somewhere, so we were on the road for three hours, but we also talked for three hours, so apart from being 30 minutes late and hoarse, that was just fine. No pics of the desert because we weren't stopping, but it showed the impact of three days of rain in February: every little scrap of scrub was green, and a few whiskers of new grass had poked up. Camels everywhere, but also bulldozers and trucks dotted across the dunes, and many many signs of new development. I rather assumed it was just Dubai and Sharjah, but it seems that they are building everywhere, beginning with infrastructure. If you've seen Syriana, think of George Clooney at a brand new crossroads in the middle of the desert, and add roundabouts, flyovers and curly intersections, all smart in yellow and white paint, and sand dunes in all directions, and that was our experience today. A few more signs would have been nice though!
I think that the mountains are volcanic - hard grey shale, no soil, no plant life - except for the odd tree that had rooted against all odds on a summit. This photo looks inland from the Oceanic Hotel in Khor Fakkan, over lushly maintained gardens. The greenery is a ribbon, and beyond it, desert, mountain and more desert.
I was impressed with the hotel bikeshed. Irrigation or rain?!
I had a beginner's anxieties about my part in the conference, but it was straightforward, as such things usually are, and a very satisfying experience. Lunch was good too!
Five back became two back, and another stimulating conversation as we bowled home by a different route, this time through the mountains, rather than round the southern tip. Coming back to Jebel Ali along Emirates Road, there were hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds of trucks and water tankers toiling along in single file on the roads leading on and off the massive Dubailand roundabout, like cartoon ants marching off with the picnic. It's hard to contemplate so much construction. You've seen computer simulations of construction projects, and that terrific hp logistics ad with people somersaulting into seats on platforms that flew in a nanosecond before: a timelapse photographic project of this place would match it. Back to town, but only after a very good day.