This is what I knew about rugby before joining the rugby club: Nothing!
This is what I know about rugby now that I am a member at the rugby club:
1. Even though to an inexperienced eye it appears similar to American football, one should never say that to a rugby fan.
2. The ball looks bigger than an American football and the players appear to throw the ball backwards instead of forwards.
So basically, I still know nothing about rugby, but that is okay because I didn’t join the rugby to club to learn about this sport or heaven forbid actually play it. I joined because it is one of just a hand full of gyms in Al Ain. Most expats in Al Ain are members of one of the gyms. For some people, it is all about the resort like pools. For others, it is about the golf, tennis, rugby, or football amenities. For me, it is just about the gym.
The Rugby Club is by far the closest to my flat. Locality is its main selling point. Otherwise I would prefer joining the gym at one of the hotels. Their gyms and pool areas are far superior to the rugby club’s. The gym in the Rugby Club isn’t very big and neither is the pool. However, when it comes down to it, if I have to drive 15-30 minutes to get to the gym, I probably won’t go. With the rugby club, I can be there in 5 minutes or less. It also cheaper than the other gyms. Plus, in addition to the 15% discount given to UAEU employees, I joined with a gym husband in order to get the family discount (~1275AED/$350US for my share for a nine month membership). Unfortunately, despite Kassandra’s mature attitude, she is still not allowed to use the gym equipment since she isn’t 16. So really even though it is a family membership, only gym mom (me) and gym dad (my neighbor) get to take advantage of it. Apparently there is a new choice to just join as a couple (no kids), so I think we will take that option this year and save a little bit more money (~1060AED/$290US).
There is a British Veterinary on the right side of the Rugby Club (I am not sure what makes a British vet different than an American one, and I haven’t investigated it since I don’t have any pets with me).
There is also a women’s only spa to the left of the Rugby Club that just opened in Spring 2013. In all fairness, the spa menus were changed and you can no longer get ‘bliach/bliacj’ or a ‘bedicure’, but you can get bleaching and pedicures if you are interested.
To the back side of the Rugby Club is a rock climbing wall and tennis courts as well. The Black Pearl Dive shop for scuba diving is located near the pool area. Read my blog post about scuba diving for more details on that.
The rugby field is the view I get as I am working out on the elliptical trainer. Watching the rugby players can be a nice distraction as I try to surpass the 8km mark. I remember once looking far out onto the field and thinking about how it is kind of hot to watch the guys tackling each other. Yes, it can be lonely as a single mom overseas. Then, embarrassingly, the players moved closer into view, and I realized that I had been watching the youth players. I swear I never would have been ogling them if I had known I was watching 14 year olds play. Don’t judge me.
Looking out on to the grassy field as I am working out, there are times that I forget that I live in a big desert. Well that is until I am done with my workout and have to walk outside into the sweltering heat. This is another reason why most expats have a gym membership. It is really hard to enjoy a lot of physical activity in the extreme heat. There are some people who jog in places like Jahili Park or ride their bikes along the “corniche”, but for most months out of the year and most times during the day, the heat makes outdoor exercise a non-option for me.
The restaurant in the Rugby Club (The Amblers Bar & Restaurant) is also one of the few places in Al Ain that serves alcohol. It has outdoor stadium seating for people watching rugby matches (games?) or when there is the occasional live band playing on the weekend. The restaurant has a very Britishy feel to it. In fact, many of the expat kids from Kassandra’s British school use the Rugby Club as an after school hang out joint. Notice from the picture that the laws we have in the US regarding children not being allowed in a bar area do not seem to apply here.
Before I left for the summer holiday, the Rugby Club was working on opening a poolside snack bar, so perhaps that will be a nice place to have lunch or something during the cooler weather. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Rugby Club expanded its gym and/or pool within the next year or so to accommodate the increase in members. At least one can hope because I am tired of fighting to get one of the two elliptical machines.
In short, the gym is convenient especially since there are not a lot of options in Al Ain. If you are a big rugby fan (go Al Ain Amblers!), then this is probably the best place to join. If I lived closer to the Hilton or the Danat, I would join one of them instead in a heartbeat. Even though they have a higher price tag, spending some weekends poolside would probably make the extra expense worthwhile. The Rugby Club pool is certainly nothing to write home about. But all in all, until something like a 24hour fitness opens up in Al Ain, I will probably be a Rugby Club member…. just don’t expect me to actually start playing rugby.