My random musings……

Staycation – Flamingo

Last month we spent a couple of days at the Flamingo beach resort in Umm Al Quwain. Had to finish off some pending annual leave, and decided on a staycation rather than travel overseas, especially in light of the 2-year long Corona pandemic .

On the way!

Umm Al Quwain is one of the emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates, having joined the confederation on 2nd December 1971. It lies sandwiched between Ras Al Khaimah at the north and Ajman to its south. At present I think it is the least developed emirate in the country in terms of commercialization with the traditional fishing, tourism and trade as its economic pillars. A number of beach resorts are peppered along its coast. It is also home to an industrial area – Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQFTZ) based at Port Ahmed Bin Rashid and the largest waterpark in the UAE – Dreamland Aquapark. The emirate is about a 40-minute drive from the bustling cosmopolis of Dubai – which I call home 🙂

Sail fish round about, Umm Al Quwain

Most of the land is arid and you’d get an impression of passing through a lost era. We experienced an eerie feeling especially when driving around at night, as a lot of places were pitch dark. Even then the city had a generous share of basic infrastructure such as good roads and street lights along and around its main thoroughfares. The Mall of Umm Al Quwain is as upscale as you can get in the city. We did pass village-like areas that resembled ghost towns. Since the idea behind our visit was to relax and take some time off a stressful work year, we didn’t explore every nook and corner and stuck mostly to habitable, decent looking places.

Through casual conversation with the locals, we learnt of new plans by the government to develop some part of its coastline by transforming them into clean beaches with marine and leisure activities. This should give it a much needed fillip and is in line with the country’s drive to create new beautiful spaces for the public to enjoy. On that count, I’m truly impressed with the number of sites developed with interesting concepts especially in Khor Fakkan (where I visited a year back). Nice to see the last and lagging emirate move up the ladder. Go UAQ!

Flamingo resort is one of the oldest resorts in the country. Its age will be evident the moment you enter its compound with none of the modern embellishments that one would expect from the average resort. 

We were allotted a room the ground floor, the thought of which initially disappointed me as I fancied a room on a higher floor.  The mood was gladly enhanced by the floor to ceiling balcony and the view from our room. 

Being on the ground floor made the beach seem an extension of our room itself. 

Ceramic tiles, furnishing and fixtures reminiscent of the 90s evidenced its age. 

Having said that, the room is quite tidy. 

Dated interlock bricks.

Even older granite tiling and a pre-historic lift. Thank heavens we didn’t need to use it.

The view! Mornings were so refreshing that walking along the beach was akin to a stroll in paradise.

An early morning visitor.

Another visitor

The port to the north of the resort is being developed.

The resort also has facilities for fishing, jet skis and paddle boat. Enthusiasts can rent the boats and jet skis. They are available from 9 AM, by when it was too hot. So we didn’t give it a try though we wanted to. May be some other time, some other place.

Paddle boat

Mangroves in the distance. The place was to be abundant with flamingoes. We didn’t see any though. 

No dearth of crows

Thats the hotel – notice how uninspiring the architecture is.

Additionally it has some lodging, spa and a restaurant – The Waves. A word of caution – stay away from it. We had a terrible experience with their breakfast and had all our meals outside in the city.

Overall, the stay was nothing extraordinary – nothing wowed us from a hospitality standpoint, with only relaxation being the highlight of the stay. The location and facilities were average, which isn’t surprising given the low pricing. It’s then no wonder that very few rooms were occupied (that helped only with the peace and quietude. With way better properties in the vicinity, I would not recommend the Flamingo resort to anyone wanted to spend a weekend in the emirate.

Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Coupe

Merc insigniaThen…

It was somewhere in late 2007 that I landed my UAE driving license – and believe me, it felt like graduation! People from the region would attest to the sense of euphoria, obtaining one, after  enduring a gruelling drill of fabricated test failures. At the time I was just a few years into my first job earning a measly salary and living in a torn down apartment which we’d inhabited for over 20 years. Of course it used to be one of the most luxurious condos during its heyday. With the wave of developments across Dubai during the late 90s and the last decade, Qusais was relegated way down the rankings.

Anyway, since the license milestone was achieved, the next step was to buy my first car. One evening, during a casual conversation with my dad, he surprisingly recommended a Mercedes Benz! Back then, even my entire salary wouldn’t cover one month’s installment, had I chosen to go with one. However he had other perspectives in mind. Intrigued, I probed on. According to his knowledge, it was easy to get a used Mercedes Benz, and there were many garages that specialized in services and parts of the brand. In that sense it was relatively cheap; yet to me it was a huge risk to take up. Its true, I found out later there were many places – in Sharjah especially – that took good care of Mercs. Some guys even own classics of the brand that are maintained like new – but then thats hard core passion. Regardless, my dad’s suggestion opened up my mind to considering one. Flitting thorough the various models online, the CLK caught my eye.


The 1997 1st generation CLK had mild sporty contours with the shape of the rear lights blending beautifully with its overall curved-boxy profile.


Though by the time I got my driver’s license, the second generation had been launched – which I didn’t like – I was in love with the rather subtle sportiness of the CLK. Strangely, I’m quite enchanted with erstwhile designs of many a brand, possibly because nuances in designs introduced in subsequent models within the same generation somehow catch my eye. That’s the reason I had purchased the 2008 model Infiniti G35 in 2013. I couldn’t stand the cosmetic changes made in 2009 and later models.

CLK stands for Coupé Leicht Kompakt or Light Compact Coupe. One would hardly miss the styling commonalities between the E-Class sedan and the CLK. In fact I’d initially thought it was the coupe version of the E-class itself. The design similarities are pretty obvious in the twin circular headlights and the tail lights of both models. This resemblance carried over to the second generation CLK launched in 2002 as well. Interestingly, I discovered that mechanically, the CLK is not based on the E-class, but on the C-Class platform. After the second generation though, Mercedes Benz reverted to the former moniker – E-Class Coupe.

So, when taking my time to decide on the car I wanted to buy, I also occasionally reviewed classified ads for the Mercedes CLK coupe. For one, it’s a coupe – apt for the age, and second, of course it’s a Merc. A friend and I even visited a couple of guys who were selling the 1998 and 1999 models. Sadly, they hadn’t maintained it well – I could see how their rash driving had worn out its body and interiors! Today, in retrospect, I also find the interiors too dated and dull. Couldn’t justify the price at the time. I eventually ended up going in for a brand new 2007 Honda Civic LXi – 1.8L, which I drove for 6 years! Was in pristine condition even when I sold it.

The dream machine…

Later on, in 2013, I bought my dream car – Infiniti 35 sport sedan – which I briefly touched upon in an earlier post. In my personal view, its design is unsurpassed for its class and segment. Add to that, its powerful 3.5L V6 engine under its hood, the G35 ticked all the boxes – none missed!


As I’d mentioned in my previous post, marketing has been Infiniti’s biggest goof up. The company failed miserably in showing off the G35 to the world. It’s certainly astonishing that even the 2008 model had electronic powered seats, and electric steering wheel adjustments – an impressive set of functions available in a Japanese sports brand in the last decade. Now though, I’ve been driving it for 5 years at the car is aging. Thankfully I’ve never experienced any major glitches normally expected from a premium model – thats where Japanese engine shows its might. So there I was, again in the market looking for a replacement. None would come close to the G in terms of the overall package. For a while, I considered the drastically styled and supposedly improved Q50 sedan which replaced the G-series. I was loaned one by the agency, when the G was in for its scheduled maintenance. Design-wise it had stunning elements. The front and rear lights are gorgeous, but overall, I found the car didn’t really have a presence on the road. It got more depressing when I gunned it up for my first drive. Man, that car sucked big time. Imagine having a brand new car with breath-taking aggressive styling, starting up sounding like an engine gurgling methane. Its akin to a diesel powered Isuzu pick-up truck hoarding used air conditioners to and from the warehouses at the Sharjah Industrial market, driven by the ubiquitous pattaans! Also, the drive lacked punch.

In comparison, the G35 roars to life on pushing its start button. There is an innate sense of comfort and security, contributed in no small measure by its weight. Yes, coming from a 1.8L Honda Civic, the weight of the Infiniti G definitely made its psychological impact. In Neutral, it’s almost noiseless, like a hungry tiger lying in patient wait. With that first experience itself, the Q50 was written off. In similar fashion, a number of models and brands fell off my list.


And then I happened to come across this awesome E-Class Coupe at a very reasonable price and very low mileage. A guy who’d planned to export it to his home country eventually realized it would cost more than the car itself to do so. As soon as I checked it out along with a friend, I fell in love with it; yet, confusion reigned, as I never really expected to chance upon a Merc! Anyways, long story short, I bought it.


To me, a desirable car is a mix of elegance and aggressiveness. It lies midway between a fully angry looking Mustang and the clean lines of a Cadillac. The G35 was just that. And now its the same with the E Class Coupe.


This was purely love at first sight! Such class, elegance and monstrosity grouped into one neat package!


The build is strong and sturdy. Notice the high waistline – gives you a solid sense of safety inside.


The coupe’s appeal is enhanced by a lengthy wheelbase, yet accentuated by decent overhangs.


The car also sits very low and reasonably wide. Regarding it from the front, several striking design features present themselves.


For one, the bonnet is REALLY long. The flat roof profile flows down the windshield to the bonnet, culminating in the prominent grille, at the centre of which protrudes the majestic three-star emblem.


The grille is flanked by a pair of curvy headlamps.

Merc front comparison

To make a point on the headlamps, I prefer the dual rhombus featured in the previous model. The grille outline was also wider and more defined. Nevertheless, the four-eyed look when lit up, lends the coupe a most attractive, aggressive stance. Growl !!!


The interiors exude brilliance.  Red maroon interiors have been carefully combined with black garnished perfectly alongside brushed aluminium panels.

The dashboard is topped with Artico stitched leather extending across the door beltline.


Super sporty seats. In my view, the Merc has one of the best designed cockpits.


Yanking the aluminium latch bends the front seat forward, which then automatically  slides along a rail to make room for rear passengers to enter/exit. However, don’t let the intuitive feature thrill you; it takes excruciatingly long to get out of the way, and fall back in place.


The nappa-leather outlined steering wheel and dashboard console are clean and sophisticated – a Mercedes characteristic.


The instrument panel is clean and organized. However, they are quite standard on most models. You’d find the same set in the C, SLC, S, CLA and other models as well, with some changes like circular air vents (which I dislike anyway). The flat –bottom steering also has the usual paddle-shifters and one new feature that I took some time to get used to – the gear-shift mounted behind the steering column.


The Mercedes Command interface can be browsed using a wheel – this is my first experience with one.



Storage space is generous. Pushing the rectangular button on either side of the armrest opens up the padded top covers of the storage box. They flip sideways from the centre.


The small angular compartment in the front can also be used to keep keys, cards, etc. In the convertible model, this casing houses the controls of the folding roof. Moving the gear-shift to the steering console resulted in more space in the form of storage compartments. Very neat.



On closing the doors, an automatic seatbelt-extender pushes forward to literally hand you the belt for ease.



Front to rear panoramic sunroof


Four control knobs extend and retract the temperature-controlled seat padding for optimal ergonomic adjustments.

The drive

Now, it would get obvious as we go on that I haven’t deeply researched every option available in the E Class Coupe, as I don’t generally review cars in detail. Following are some of the experiences that I had with the car over the last 2 months.

The acceleration is very smooth and fluid. However, coming from the instant surge of power experienced in the Infiniti G, the Merc’s response is a bit of a letdown. During both acceleration and braking, the coupe’s weight seemingly introduces a delay. Or it’s probably the electronics that guides its drive-characteristics – I don’t know. Though I haven’t tested it out in depth, this may change in Sports (S) mode. I drive in the Economy (E) mode most of the time. In addition to these two, there’s the third Comfort (C) mode, which I have never used.

The brakes are anyway solid and consistent. Once the car moves, it’s pure refinement and elegance in action. The on-road stability offers a very dreamy feel. Again its very quiet, in stark contrast to the roar of the G.


Absence of the B-pillar and frameless windows ensure adequate blind spot views with just a glance over your shoulder. When the windows are down, there’s a sense of airy freedom. Open up the electrically-sliding front to rear panoramic sunroof, and it’s like you’re sitting out in the open.

The adaptive steering tightens up as you accelerate and loosens during slow speeds. So on curved highways, it could occasionally feel a little heavy and strenuous to glide hugging the lanes. In general, the drive is plush once you settle down into the cockpit.

Overall, this is a beautiful car to own and am loving every bit of it. It’s yet another dream car of mine, which God has been so kind to confer upon me. During the coming days, I intend to discover more features and put them to test.


Being flawless as it were, I’m inclined to leave it ensconced in my basement parking rather than use it as an everyday car. Besides, the lack of covered parking at work is a huge disadvantage, since I will do not want to expose the Merc to the extreme summer heat. Which is now inciting me to consider getting a cheap daily car. Till then I’ll live with daily rides in the E-Klasse Coupe.



Mercato Mall

Driving up the road to Jumeira past Satwa, you’d hardly miss the Meditteranean structure standing out from the rest of the buildings in the area. The well balanced, symmetric and neatly designed enclosure is the Mercato mall, one of the many malls that are home to Dubai. I’d visited Mercato, around 10 years ago, during an exploratory mission around the city. Some at the time I’d dismissed it as another mall, possibly because I gone in for a stroll towards the evening.

These days, I’ve got a new hobby. During the weekends, I head out to any of thousands of coffee shops scattered around they city, with a book or my iPad and read in relaxation. I’m thoroughly cozy in the modern yet comfortable and communal ambience, and has become some of the best reading spots for me. Of course I frequent some more than others – for instance, mostly I head out to the Starbucks located opposite Dubai Airport Free Zone. Lovely place! A decent crowd and the calmness of weekend mornings are the perfect recipe for bliss.

A few weeks ago, I was driving around when I decided to check out the Mercato Mall, as it had been quite a while since I went in there. In a lot of ways this time felt really different, from the time I drove down the ramp into the parking. I reckon its because this time I was scouting around for a new place to read.

Rising up to the first floor from the basement parking, I arrived right next to the anchor store – Spinneys. Its now, that I really began to admire the interior and its architecture. I had my Fuji XE1 with me and took a few pics. And yes, I was planning to settle down somewhere and read eventually 😉

Photos processed in an online Photo editor as my HP had to be formatted to re-install Windows 7. Truly hate Windows 10 that used up so much memory and slowed down every application to a sludge! Am too lazy to download and install Lightroom again. The pics looked different on the HP when I edited them. Now they’re too dark. Yet, here goes…


Most places resembled cobble-stoned streets.




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