With the mercury slowly dropping into the high thirties, more and more people here are stepping out into the great outdoors to make the most of the lovely weather. And one outdoor activity that the UAE holds sacrosanct is The Barbecue.
All over the country, dusty grills are being pulled out and polished to a shine that would make the Evil Queen’s mirror cower in shame. Family favorite recipes and secret marinades are being brushed up on (pun intended). Cricket bats, footballs and badminton rackets are being dragged out of storage. Information about secret barbecue spots is being traded in hushed whispers in office corridors.
A family affair
On Thursday yours truly planned a sunset barbecue on the beach at Mussafah Park with the extended family. A well-screened beach cum park tucked by the side of a busy highway with ample kids’ play areas, a scenic Boulanger Cafe, plenty of shade, designated barbecue areas with comfortable seating and roomy cabanas.
The park has plenty of barbecue stations at waist height – essentially large hollowed out stone columns that you can place your grill on and later empty the spent coals into. This is beyond convenient as it means you don’t have to bend over double like a brewing witch over a bubbling cauldron (Can you tell I’m in a Halloween mood?). Or squat undignified on one of those ubiquitous mini stools. I also loved that the place has proper benches and tables that can easily accommodate 6-8 people each. As a small group all you need to do is snag a table and you’re all set for the day.
The park is adjacent to a beach, but there are signs aplenty warning against swimming or fishing. While we didn’t see any swimmers, there were quite a few people fishing and it did look like they were having some luck. There were also some privately owned jet skis out on the water.
When we scouted out the location earlier in the week, there was ample parking and aside from what seemed like a rampant cat population the area seemed perfect for our needs. Time Out had come through for us yet again with the recommendation of a quiet, relatively unknown city gem. Or so we thought.
Fast forward to 5:30 pm on Thursday evening. We reached the park in a convoy of 8 cars only to be met by a parking lot that was packed to overflowing! Cars were double parked from end to end and the bolder SUV’s had already staked out spots atop the pavements. Our group quickly split up in a desperate scramble to find parking spots.
Tips and Tricks
- Get there as early as possible (Duh!). We learnt the hard way that while the park is relatively quiet on a weekday, a weekend/public holiday can be a radically different story.
- If the parking slots are full, take a right from the entry roundabout and head to the extreme end where, if you’re lucky, you will find some space in the sand lot. If that fails and you are slightly braver, take a left at the entry roundabout instead and keep going till the very end of the parking lot until you find the dirt track that leads by the side of the villas straight on to the beach. This is ideal because it means a shorter trek from your car to your barbecue spot. I did not see any sedans attempt this track but a couple of SUVs seemed to manage it just fine. Please note that I cannot vouch for how legal this actually is. The last thing you need is to be slapped with a hefty fine for illegal parking. That would turn out to be one expensive barbecue!
- The central parts of the park closer to the fountains and the kids play areas quickly filled up and were already crowded by the time we got there. People were barbecuing even in the non designated zones and there seemed to be no park officials around to tell them otherwise. But there was plenty of room available at the extreme ends of the park, even for a rather large group like ours.
We managed to find a quiet spot at the very end of the park near the villas. We had a perfect barbecue station on the beach with a lovely water view, ample seating in the form of benches with tables, a cabana nearby if we needed it and plenty of grass for the kids to frolic on. The only down side was that it was quite a trek to the public toilets (which by the way are no longer paid like the Time Out article mentioned and are about as clean as you can expect of a park toilet in Abu Dhabi).
All in all it was a wonderful evening spent with family in a lovely location and you can bet we’ll be planning another barbecue there soon!
Until next time…