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Sharks at Sharjah

I am a reasonable swimmer, but not a great swimmer. I do not like to be too far off shore. I am too much aware that down there in the murk beneath me swims Leviathon.

A few miles outside Sharjah on the way to Dubai there was a stretch of beach with just off shore a small sandbank that was in the process of forming a lagoon. Or silting it up - as the layout of the sandbank was constantly changing, I never knew which. The coastline between Sharjah and Dubai was always fluid. One day the hard packed sand 'road' between the two Sheikdoms made for a swift journey, but on another day the 'road' could be under water and the only way to Dubai was to head out across the dunes.

It was a secluded place for a swim and Ann and I went there often, but I was always aware that there could be sharks. One day we saw them. There had been a blow and waves rolled up the beach, and as the waves reared up we could see the sharks. They were well under the surface, patrolling the coastline in a never ending search for prey, but as the wave rose they became visible in silhouette at the level of our eyes.

They were probably only sand sharks, and of no real danger, but it did put a damper on our swimming trips.

Fishing was another matter. You could do that standing safely on the shore. And when Ray arrived and wondered what you did in Sharjah for recreation, Ann and I took him fishing. Of course Ray was an adept and knew all about reels and lines and breaking strains - whether he did or not - and we were soon casting our spinners out into the sea.

We were not alone. A 'recce' from RAF Sharjah had arrived, and in order to get away from the horseplay that was going to frighten away even the boldest fish, we decided to wade across the channel between the shoreline and the sandbank and try our luck from the sandbank. It was as we were casting our lines that we saw the sharks.

They were everywhere, large dark shapes under the surface of the water, gliding through the channel we had just waded across. Naturally we tried to catch one, but even my biggest spoon was ignored. But we soon became aware of what was happening further along the beach.

Those same dark shapes were gliding between the RAF boys as they horsed around in the water, then moving up through the murk of the channel we had to cross to get back. They seemed to be doing a circuit, a swarm of sharks circling the sandbank, heading out into the open sea, and then returning to swim unnoticed through the group of RAF boys and once more head up though the channel between the sandbank and the shore.

It was evening and the light was fading, and the water came up to our chests as we waded back across the channel to the beach. Ray thought it was great fun. I was more circumspect.

But then came the big decision. Did we tell the sergeant in charge of the RAF party of what we had seen? Logic said yes, but having been in the forces I knew that would almost certainly result in the beach getting permanently banned. Should we spoil the RAF boys' fun just because of a some (probably) harmless sand sharks?

In the end we left them to their swimming. I doubt if they ever knew that that day they had swum with sharks.