The Desert dunes is one of the most memorable experiences in Dubai for a first time visitor, or even for the residents who perhaps had not had the time or opportunity in their busy schedules to explore the desert and its dunes before. I am a lover of warm, magnificent sunsets. So this excursion into the desert, with the opportunity to see the Dubai sunset in all its glory, was an easy decision on how to spend my time. There are various tour operators who runs these sorts of Desert Safaris, so the choice is openly your; usually this is group based, as the tour entails a 4×4 vehicle ride among the dunes, with a traditional camp as our destination, amidst the peaceful desert.
My best friend and I chose the evening safari, which started at approximately 4pm. This is a great time slot to book your tour, as the sun is not too hot, and the tour will also include a fascinating Arabic sunset, along with an evening traditional dinner and dancing show. We were excited to start our trip and got comfortable immediately on the spacious white 4×4 jeeps that came to our hotel to pick us up. It was about 30 minute drive out of the city and towards the desert. During the ride our driver kept us informed telling us random tips and information about Dubai and it’s culture. It’s a general trend that the locals are very friendly and are happy to answer your questions.Soon, the 4×4 wheels were hitting the fine sand of the Dubai desert. Once we had driven far into the sands, the first dunes started to appear. It was a magical scene. Heaps and hills of golden sand formed a powder like veil across the vast horizon as the landscape grew deeper and deeper as far as the eye could see. The drivers stepped on the gas, and the fun began! Like a mechanical rodeo, we drove into, sideways, on top, towards, and over the many many dunes (or what is appropriately referred to as ‘dune bashing’) with expert skill and commando maneuvers that made our adrenaline soar. We laughed and jested and made remarks about what a fun job the tour driver have!
Next we drove towards the direction of the camp, leaving the dunes to resume their smooth appearance with the aid of wind and time, covering our wheel tracks, and soon it would be like a blank sand canvas once again. It was not into our journey that we noticed the sun gradually descend and cause the sky to turn the warmest shades of orange I have ever seen. Without a cloud in sight, the landscape was an epic masterpiece of nature. Coral, peach and salmon hues graced the sky, while the golden sands grew a dark dusky pink against the fading sun’s light. We stopped to take breathtaking pictures that literally fail to capture the moment accurately.
The following was the highlight of the evening; we reached the base camp just around dusk. We were greeted by a few camels and their caregivers, who were inviting us to mount the camels and take a few photographs. If you haven’t ridden a camel before, I highly recommend it. There is something about this animal, in its’ natural environment, that results in leaving you in awe of the moment. The camel is one of the most impressive of animals, being able to survive for long periods of time with very little water due to its’ natural reserve tanks, also known as humps. They are docile and friendly, and seem to have an air of nonchalance about them; calm and collected yet they can be extremely fast for the experienced rider. After all, camel riding is the traditional Arab way of riding. At the entrance of the camp, was another caregiver with his imposing animal, a falcon. The falcon was perched tranquilly on the man’s arm, and occasionally spread its wings to full span, in all its’ grandeur.
As we walked further into the base, we made ourselves comfortable sitting on big cushions laid on the sand, to relax and cool down before the dinner. As the dinner area was being prepared, we strolled around the site which was built like to create different spaces from literally thin air! There were shisha or relaxation areas, dining areas for the guests, there were the food stall areas, the refreshments area, the toilet facilities (which are quite basic as any traveler would imagine), as well as other small sections for random use. For example, in one area, a typical lady elder was setting up for henna hand painting, which is also very traditional. The design is usually free-hand, and so really no two hand paintings are ever exactly the same; it is an authentic and one-of-a-kind souvenir that you carry ‘on you’ until the henna eventually washes out. It is a safe, natural and pain-free tattoo that is done with great love for the art, and is also for free at the base camp, although you are welcome to tip if you are happy with the result.
The dinner was a well organized buffet with traditional flavours and dishes. I tried mostly everything. In particular, the salads were very nice and fresh, the tabbouleh was very aromatic and the chickpea kiofte type rissoles were superb; flavourful, light and crispy on the outside. While we were enjoying our truly delicious meal, it was time for entertainment!
We were gathered to sit around the main area of the camp, forming a large rectangle around a sandy dance floor. And as belly dancing is a long-standing traditional way to entertain, a fiery belly dancer came to the centre began her feminine whiles. It is a beautiful dance, very uplifting and aesthetically pleasing and, speaking for myself, I watched her wondering if I could learn to dance somewhat like that! She was quite mesmerizing as she danced to the sound of the drum and the traditional music that accompanied her snappy hip movements.
As the night gradually drew to an end, I had not realized how nearly 4 hours had passed. It was a beautiful starry night in the middle of the Dubai desert and the tour operators began to call their groups to recouperate and get back to the 4×4 vehicles for the return journey to our hotels. It was one of the most memorable evenings of my stay, hands down.