Who’s leaving Dubai without experiencing the Arabian Desert? The Dubai desert safari is an exciting activity you should add to your bucket list if you’re looking for real adventure in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it’s an electrifying chase through the Arabian Desert in 4×4’s trying to keep up the pace as they drift across the sand dunes, with the four wheels spinning in the immensely soft, fine, and multi-colored desert sands.
It can be difficult to find out the best desert safari deal amongst hundreds of travel companies providing adventurous desert trips and each claiming to offer the best and the most cheapest. Ours were sponsored by Inner Maldives Holidays, so we didn’t have to take the trouble of finding a needle in a haystack, everything was arranged and we had an itinerary in place.
Our desert safari tour was on Friday, June 3rd – a 4×4 wheel van that could fit 6 people, plus the driver picked us at our hotel at 1630hrs and continued to pick two others who booked the same tour from a nearby hotel and then proceeded into the highway pulling off at a shop close-by the desert, there were many other vehicles and people were busy buying food, drinks and arabic scarf before entering the desert, the shop was quite crowded since everyone wanted to buy an arabic scarf to snap photos wearing it when in the desert. Each of us bought a scarf for AED 25/- (USD 7/-), the shop staff helped everyone tie it in Arabic style.
Our driver deflated the vehicle’s tires for it to handle the bumpy and soft terrain better, because wheels that are firm enough for city roads don’t work the same in the desert sands. He instructed us that the vehicle was ready, soon we hit the sand and things got a little wild as I embarked on one of the craziest rides of my life. Imagine your butt drifting in the air just inches above your seat, and I am not going to lie: some of you might need a sickness bag just in case you get major nausea. High up and over and around and down, we ascended huge sand dunes of different heights and angles and drove down, sometimes viewing directly the ground through the 4x4s windshield when the dune was so steep. We watched other 4x4s launching off sand dunes, at times it got closer to ours and we were screaming with excitement. It was very unpredictable, yet thrilling and scary, knowing that you’re seated in a 4×4 wheel drive that sometimes don’t touch the ground and with only the driver to steer it, skidding on the sand, spinning its wheels, hydroplaning, levitating, with the feeling about to tip over and who’s to assure us it wouldn’t? The drivers were amazingly skilled, but it can be a very dizzying sensation.
The driver stopped the vehicle at an unmarked region of the sand dunes where there were a dozen other 4x4s at the secluded discrete location of the desert. I can’t exactly remember, but it could have taken at least 20 minutes from our last stop. All of us got off the vehicle to stretch our muscles and limbs, some were running up the sand dunes, snapping photos of the stunning desolate panoramic views of the Arabian Desert. Sand was everywhere, stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see – the warm hues in the sand contrasted with the bright blue tones of the sky broken by few white clouds. It was a spectacular view, and for a moment I even wondered if we were on the moon, standing in the desert was both distinct and at the same time exactly how I visualized. I was filled with awe and fascination, trying to differentiate what I have seen in the science fiction movies, and read in books and novels, from the actual sprawling terrain before me, the surface of the earth was sometimes-red-sometimes-yellow-tinged sand and it was so fine it melted through the spaces between my fingers.
We spent about half an hour taking photos and the vehicle took off, arriving at almost sunset at the gates of the desert camp. There were few camels lined up near the entrance, and riding them was free of charge for everyone who were in the tour, I didn’t ride it though, I have always considered it animal abuse and not responsible tourism, but I kept snapping photos of some of them riding it. I was more excited for the camp, it was such a great opportunity to be there, with the feeling of being at some kind of a fair. There were long rows of dining tables set aside a long carpet with pillows for seats, the center of the camp had a concrete stage, there were booths/huts for food and beverages, one was for henna tattoos, and an open area to smoke hookah.
The first act of the evening was the Tanoura dance performed by a male dancer, it involved him spinning around in a circle for a length of almost 15 minutes non-stop, while using his long colorful costume to narrate a story. He kept spinning and spinning and it was amazing how much control he had over his own unsteadiness. By the end of it though he stopped and began spinning his skirt, the fascinating part of his costume was how it lit up, all the floodlights in the stage area were switched off for maximum effect and it was quite a sight.
Then we had dinner, it was more or less typical spice-filled Arabic food– falafel with tahini sauce, hummus, samoas, pita bread, salad greens with dressing. I loved the barbecued lamb and fish, they also had macaroni which I assume was for the children. The dessert consisted of some kind of fruit salad with pie crust coated in condensed milk.
After dinner, we witnessed the spotlight of the evening, involving two performances, an impressive fire dance by a man and a Russian belly-dancer who busted out some Shakira moves that completely grabbed everyone’s attention at the camp.
Yes! She totally did it. The belly dance was the final performance and winded up the evening and the same vehicle that brought us and bashed the sand dunes, dropped us back to our hotel safe. We arrived our hotel at 2130hrs and were supposed to be leaving to the airport at 2200hrs, we had a flight to catch to Malé at 0130hrs early morning. This is certainly the most authentic experience Dubai can offer, so if you’re in Dubai do not miss it.