This is like Finding Nemo or Dory – but with less fish and far more stressful for us!!
The other morning we’d all ventured down to the beach at our hotel in Dubai – not something we do that often – we’re more likely to be found by the pool – but everyone (me included, in fact, me especially) had been persuaded to brave the sand!
(I also had a stress about whether the swimsuit was Roxy or Quiksilver – which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly the most important issue right at that point – but it’s amazing what’s racing through your mind. The husband had told me subsequently that he was thinking about having to move to a cheaper hotel if we had to stay here for months looking for her – and he calls me the drama queen!!)
The boy and I were swimming in the sea whilst the husband and daughters played on the sand. But as we came out of the sea the husband was waving frantically. Our 6 year old, E, had gone to wash her hands in the showers – about 50 yards from where we were camped out on the beach – but she’d not come back. At this point she’d been missing for just less than 10 minutes.
He’d not wanted to leave the 5 year old alone on the beach, so the 13 year old had done a full check of the route to and from the showers, and then checked around the pool to see if she was there – but no luck. She then headed up to Beit al Bahar where our villa is situated to check that E hadn’t gone back up there and to alert the staff (who started checking the CCTV immediately, they were great).
I stayed put – frantically scanning the beach – whilst the son went one way on the beach and the husband headed off to the pool area.
I remembered I’d just taken this photo – and envisaged it being shown on Sky News
The boy came back and couldn’t see her on the beach towards the bridge to the Burj – so I left him in charge of his littlest sister, with strict instructions not to move in case E headed back.
I ran up the beach (apologies to anyone who witnessed that – not pretty, and I was so stressed I didn’t even put my cover up on so was just in a swimming cossie which is unheard of for me!) asking people, staff and sunbathers, if they’d seen a 6 year old on her own – no one had. People kept telling me not to worry as it’s a really safe hotel – but all I could think of (although thankfully didn’t shout at anyone), was ‘I bet that’s what the McCanns said’. We were actually on the Algarve 15 minutes up the coast with a daughter 6 weeks younger than Madeleine McCann when she went missing – so it’s always been closer to home than I would like.
I decided to try some of the toilets – as the 13 year old had once got locked in a cubicle there – but no sign. However – as I came out THERE SHE WAS – walking with an enormous man! She wasn’t crying – although there was a bit of a wobbly lip when I scooped her up – and I thanked the man profusely but then ran off to let the rest of the family know she was ok – and to stand the hotel staff down on their searches.
Turns out E had washed her hands – but walked down onto the beach in a slightly different place to where she’d walked up – I suspect onto the private Burj Al Arab section rather than the Jumeirah Beach Executive Pool section (can’t fault her aspirations!) and got confused when she couldn’t see us. She said she’d looked for a bit – but then found a grown up to help (we’ve had a subsequent conversation about it being a member of staff in a uniform should she need help in the future). The man had spoken to her in a different language (and when I’d spoken to him his English was very accented – I’m guessing he was Russian?) but she’d explained where she was staying and he’d offered to walk her back. She’d also told him she was from England, and that she was on holiday with her parents and 3 siblings – and no doubt loads more! The poor bloke probably had his ear bent for 10 minutes. We tried to find him afterwards to buy him a beer (or maybe a vodka if my suspicions on his nationality are correct) but haven’t found him – but we are so grateful to him.
It was such a huge relief that she was ok – and so sensible (whilst the rest of the family were being completely overdramatic) – and has prompted lots of conversations with her and her siblings about what to do if you get lost in the future.
The husband and I celebrated her safe return with pots of tea (as it was before midday and so no brandy was available!) which then got sand kicked over them. Another good reason to stick to the pool!!