06 March 2005

Sharjah Wildlfe Centre

Mercifully easy to find (if you know how scary it is to drive in Sharjah, where there is no roadmap in existence), after a detour through the vastness of Sharjah University, past the impressively pointless Sharjah monument, we reached this new zoo for a rainy day visit.

I have never been in a zoo that was emptier. Apart from a bus load of Dutch people there was not a screaming child of a whinging teenager in sight (not that the Dutch people screamed or whinged, all very civilised). Most of the time it was just us and the various snakes, spiders, scorpions, gekkos and lizards. Until we got to the outside habitats: Flamingos and other water birds balancing on one leg; Ostriches and antelopes of varying sizes strolled round together and in the distance we could even spot a few of the fabled oryx antelopes, extinct in the wild now, who were a source for the myth of the unicorn, since their straight long, closely set horns look like a single on from the side.

We also spotted a rock hyrax, a small ratty looking thing, but which apparently is a distant relative of the elephant (it would be difficult to think of the shape of a land mammal that looked less like an elephant than this cat-sized furry animal).

Another highlight was a cave full of fruit bats at lunch, eating melons and apples, flying up and down a dark alley, avoiding each other by prodigious use of ears and radar. Finally we arrived at the dangerous animals section: red-arsed baboons nervously eyeing the wolves in the next enclosure, a mean hyena pacing in circles and graceful leopards and cheetahs staring bored into the distance. Perhaps they would have been cheered up by the sight of screaming children....


Martina Has a Cheetah Encounter

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