Travel Note

12th January 2017

Our fourth day in the UAE was a designated credit whoring day, during which we made a brave and utterly shameless attempt to ride a total of ten different family coasters in eight locations spanning four of the seven emirates. The only place we struck out was at Al Qasba, but fellow enthusiasts visiting a few weeks earlier had told us to expect failure there. Our friend Dave agreed to bring us around which made things considerably easier; while the local standard of driving is not awful it does take quite a bit of getting used to!

On a side note, five of the eight credits ticked off on a similar day almost seven years ago are now closed. It'll be interesting to see if the same happens to this batch by 2024.

 

Sparky's Al Ghurair

12th January 2017

We arrived at Sparky's about twenty minutes after the posted opening time. As expected the amusement rides were still undergoing their morning safety checks, though the various arcade machines were lit up and a small number of locals were milling about. In due course the lone mechanic gave the all-clear for the imaginatively named Dark Ride from EOS Rides, and we decided to give it a go with no real expectations. Much to our surprise we discovered a respectable ghost train split across two levels, with high quality theming that I'd broadly classify as a hospital for aliens.

Not a powered coaster

In due course we were able to board Roller Coaster, which retained the smooth tracking and somewhat inconsistent spinning that it had on my last visit three years ago. The only difference that I noticed was a significant increase in noise, with the train making a distinctive clanking as it worked its way around the circuit. My vantage point in the front car gave me a clear view of the track, from where I noticed a whole series of electrical cables tied between the rails in the second half of the course. Dave asked a member of staff about them, and was told that they were for the drive motors on the second lift hill; presumably following the rail was easier than building a dedicated cable duct.

 

Kiddieville

12th January 2017

There was a pleasant aroma of incense in the air inside the Etihad Mall, a shopping centre known locally for its focus on fashion brands aimed at the Arab market. We made our way up to the second floor where we found Kiddieville, a small family entertainment centre with a figure eight coaster at its entrance. Roller Coaster (#2318) was never going to top any coaster polls, but we were nevertheless glad to enjoy four laps. There was no issue at all with adults riding, and there was easily enough room for two of us in each car.

 

Sparky's Lulu

12th January 2017

The latest branch of the Sparky's chain is in Fujairah, the eastern-most emirate located a little over an hour by road from Dubai. The journey was quite pleasant, with the last twenty minutes or so marked by mountains on both sides of the six lane highway. I'd ridden the figure eight Speedy Coaster some years earlier in its previous home, but it was a new tick for Megan and I felt that it would be remiss of me not to keep her company.

Sparkys

 

Ajman Market

12th January 2017

Ajman Market can be thought of as a semi-permanent carnival; satellite imagery for the site on Google Earth shows amusement rides present in every pass since mid-2009, though the selection changes quite frequently. Today there were around twenty rides in operational condition and a few more in pieces on the back of trucks, including a Moser Rides drop tower and a Wacky Worm with a placard designating it as the property of Butlins Parks Middle East.

We began our visit with a quick walkabout to determine what we wanted to ride. There were a couple of interesting flats, including a Ballerina, a Scrambler, and a Troika, but in the end we decided to limit ourselves to the two coasters and the wheel. Moments later we had clambered aboard Blizzard, a Top Fun monstrosity that was fairly brutal when I first rode it seven years ago. The hardware was refurbished prior to being reassembled in its new home, and while the ride quality was still not good it wasn't dreadful any more. I could have done without the complimentary second lap though, and Megan was obviously in full agreement on that point, letting slip an audible "oh no!" as we passed through the station back to the lift hill.

The operator on Dragon (#2319) seemed somewhat nonplussed at the sight of three adults climbing the stairs up to his coaster, but he let us board and moments later hit the appropriate button. The experience was memorable chiefly for the pleasant massage it delivered as the train vibrated its way around three laps of the track. The only theming today was a green fiberglass frog sitting in the middle of the descending helix; aside from that the ride was completely bare. Dave was of the opinion that this ride could have been the machine that was retired from Wonderland in 2004, though equally it could be the one that was retired from Al Sha'ab Leisure Park in 2007, or it could be a machine not currently recorded on RCDB.

The Sun Wheel clearly began life on the Italian fair circuit long ago, and it still carries faded Fratelli del Pietro titles. The cars were remarkably open compared to those operating in Europe nowadays, and the operator spun ours in a manner akin to a waltzer as we passed through the loading platform. This didn't help our photographs much, but we were able to snap what we wanted when the spinning subsided.

Ajman Market

 

Al Shaab Village

12th January 2017

Al Shaab Village is a shopping mall located in the emirate of Sharjah. There is a distinct shortage of parking available in front of the building, but we timed our visit well and managed to claim a spot. There are a dozen small rides in front of the building, all of them geared at those under the age of eight. Despite that there were no issues at all with us riding Family Ride, a triangular-shaped powered coaster from Turkish manufacturer DAL.

 

Al Qasba

12th January 2017

Al Qasba is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Sharjah, just three kilometres away from the border with Dubai. The facilities include two distinct ride areas, located roughly three hundred metres apart, and both of them have roller coasters. Unfortunately adults are not allowed to ride either the Mini Canyon or Dragon Mini Train as a direct consequence of an accident some years ago. We tried to get special dispensation but the operators stood their ground, and in the end we decided there was no option but to abort.

 

Family Gathering

12th January 2017

The Zayed bin Mohammed Family Gathering is an event that takes place each year in Dubai with a small fairground and a market selling local food and traditional items. While everyone is welcome to attend it is very obviously targeted primarily at Emiratis; the information on the government web site is only available in Arabic and we were the only people on the site not wearing traditional attire. Despite this however nobody batted an eyelid as we purchased our ride tickets for Burucomela (#2320), a misspelled Wacky Worm upgraded with a train of five spinning cars.

Megan had been paying close attention to the dispatch before ours and had determined that the blue car was spinning more than the others, so we selected that one. For the first lap I decided to ride defensively, remembering clearly my last encounter with the genre, but I need not have worried; the tracking was smooth and the intense spinning soon reduced both of us to fits of giggles.

Burucomela

 

Al Rigga Carnival

12th January 2017

We were only ever going to do a hit and run on our last stop of the evening, a small carnival located directly adjacent to Sparky's Al Ghurair where our day had begun ten hours before. Dragon (#2321) clattered a lot and we must have been given at least ten laps, but it nevertheless made for a fine end to a fine day.