It was one of the various new year resolutions that I made and subsequently broke. Back in January I promised myself that this year I would book plenty of weekends away for exploration. One of the bonuses of being in the Middle East, surely, is that we are bit middle and a bit east. And I had meant to capitalise on this as soon as I arrived in the UAE last year, hopping to India for a long weekend, eating like an Ottoman in Istanbul for another and exploring Petra after that.
And then you settle in here and it's all "Let's do brunch this weekend", or "Come to the beach on Friday", and "Pack your sleeping bag, we're off camping". Honestly, you'd think we were spoiled. But not this year, I said to myself. This year I would be rude to all offers of hospitality in my determination to set out from the UAE, if not like Ibn Battuta exactly, then like his younger, more spa-inclined sister.
And of course I have not. The furthest I have voyaged is to Bab Al Shams for Friday lunch. Until now, however, for I have booked my first jaunt away. It is to Cairo in a couple of weeks' time. I shall examine the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and meander about the city's souks where I shall pause for coffee and apple shisha afterwards. It will be my most intrepid excursion for months. Except there is a small postscript to this weekend which is complicating things, and that is that I am undertaking it with my mother, my 21-year-old sister and my 11-year-old brother.
"I'm waiting to hear back from my tour lady about the itinerary," came an email from my mother last week. This did not sound very intrepid to me. Did Ibn Battuta travel with an itinerary? I think not. Then came another, discussing our sleeping arrangements which were apparently my little sister's domain. "I think we are (she is) going to call the Marriott and check out that we can put a camp bed or whatever in a double room," wrote my mother. My fantasy of stumbling across a cosy, old-world B&B evaporated. Apparently we get a buffet breakfast at the Marriott.
"They'll meet you at the airport," emailed Mum again two days ago, thus also robbing me of the chance to work up suitable tourist angst at the thought of being ripped off by taxi while in transit from airport to hotel. So my next weekend away will have be to Sana'a or Kabul. Meanwhile I'm off to Egypt with my family. Well, it will be lovely to see them. I think.