Persian Gulf, UAE - Shane Pope
I grew up an expat kid in the U.A.E. We lived in Cairo for the first two years of my life, but as I don't remember the Nile because I was so young, the Gulf is the first body of water I can remember. It's also the body of water I love the most. I can't imagine a more perfect coast to grow up on. Yes, there are plenty of jellyfish and sharks, and jumping off the top of a tall dhow next to a sandbar isn't particularly safe. Trust me on that one. But that always-bathtub-temperature-water is worth having someone pee on your leg when a jellyfish stings you.
When I think about it, I can still smell the salty Gulf air. I can picture the dhows and the speedboats out on the water together making great big waves for me to dive into. I remember the women who would walk by smelling like they'd walked through a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and then spent the entire day in the spice souk. One of my favourite things to do was collect crabs and hermit crabs in a bucket and then let them go near the water and watch them scuttle into the surf near the reef. That is, when I wasn't trying to sneak them into the Jeep and bring them home. My mom always caught me. I wasn't exactly a subtle kid.
I was a boyscout at the time, and we once went out to a tiny island in the water to camp. I'd camped in the desert before and spent so many days running in the dunes and across the salt flats with the dogs, tormenting camel spiders and scorpions, playing games I'd made up. You tend to read and play in your own imagination a lot when you grow up in the expat life, always traveling. Or you would have in the 90's, anyway. Well, this little island was different from our usual camping trips. There were horses on the island, not far from the camp we'd set up. Shortly after the sun went down I snuck out to where the horses were and climbed up onto the fence, feeding one of the horses a handful of long beach grass.
I'll never forget that time in my life. The camp was just far enough away that I couldn't hear anyone or anything but the waves and the horses chewing and milling about around me. I felt the rough lips of the horse brushing against the palm of my hand as he chewed and stared up into the sky. You haven't seen the night sky until you've seen it out on the Gulf. The sky is so clear that you can see the Milky Way like a stream of stars flowing from end to end. Just me, the waves, the smell of the ocean, a lazy horse, the chilly wind, and that endless sky. I think when you grow up on the beach, it'll always be a part of who you are. It's cheesy, but it's true! I just can't handle being landlocked. I need to be near a body of saltwater, and I can't imagine better beaches to grow up on than those on the Arabian Gulf. I couldn't have been any luckier.