Friends, fools and flirts on Abu Dhabi's Corniche, but little lycra in sight

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Heading to Abu Dhabi’s Corniche with friends is always fun, especially in this cool weather. In the past two weeks I have been twice, on work duties of course, but my colleagues and I still had fun.

Our task was to find cyclists and ask their opinions about pedestrians who choose to walk in the cycling lane, rather than the designated walking area. We also hoped to find pedestrians, so that we could ask them whether they were even aware they were walking in a cycling lane.

So off we trooped, Mariam the videographer with her huge backpack and tripod, Fatima the photographer with her trusty Canon, and me with my notepad and pen. Armed so formidably, I felt sure that nothing could blow us off course. Apart from the wind, of course.

Bad weather is rarely a good excuse for not getting work done when you live in Abu Dhabi – to most editors it ranks somewhere alongside ‘the goldfish ate my homework’ – but nevertheless it just so happened that the weekend we visited high winds were lashing the coast and blowing sand everywhere.

Apparently cyclists don’t enjoy such weather, as we had a hard time finding any until a slight let-up in the wind tempted a few of the hardier ones out.

The funny thing is, that despite their penchant for wearing eyecatching clothes – think ‘skintight lycra in neon’ and you’re usually not far off – it appears that many cyclists are somewhat shy. At least, when it comes to talking to reporters.

One man I stopped said he would agree to be quoted only anonymously, because he was not a “public figure”, as he put it. Quite why you need to be a “public figure” to be able to talk about your bicycle was a mystery he never solved. After all, he was a figure and he was in public.

Another man spoke to me in hushed tones, lest his wife notice him, and asked us not to photograph him for the same reason. After every question he would ask if we were done so he could leave. His wife must be pretty scary if he’s that worried.

Interesting though their responses were, the editors felt more input was needed, so I returned on the following Sunday, this time with Mariam and another Ayesha – from the comment section – who had a day off but wanted to tag along anyway.

Unfortunately, that goldfish seems pretty hungry when it comes to eating homework and once more the windy and cold weather seemed to have put most people off visiting the Corniche.

But despite a lack of cyclists, we girls seemed to be getting a lot of attention. Men driving motorcycles would stop and wave at us, others would honk their car horns, and yet others would turn their stereos up. Perhaps they think that’s a suave way to flirt.

Some of the more disturbing ones laughed at us, though I’m not sure quite what they could have been finding so funny. Maybe it was because they saw us running after every cyclist and pedestrian we saw in a vain attempt to get a proper interview.

Such behaviour at the Corniche, it seems, is expected and accepted now. But whatever the reason, I didn’t really care. We got the job done, and that’s what matters.

This job is proving to be the biggest experience of my life; yes there’s the stress of meeting deadlines and the humbling experience of becoming the laughing stock of the Corniche, but I’m still enjoying every minute.