Dubai Dairies: The Desert Safari Experience
There is a place where golden sand is so fine it melts like butter through the spaces between your fingers, where lizards cartwheel down dunes and where an animal's two rows of extra-long eyelashes make it the envy of every woman alive. You may not believe it but this place really does exist, and it is called the Arabian desert.
I was in Dubai recently for a milestone birthday celebration, and the most memorable part of my trip was a desert safari organized by Platinum Heritage Luxury Tours. Platinum Heritage is an eco-friendly company, and our tour did not include the traditional Emirati pastime of dune bashing (riding over the precipitous dunes at a high speed amid great sprays of sand while your vehicle skids and bumps.) While dune bashing provides cheap thrills to many, it also tramples and damages dry brush and the reptiles and insects that live in the desert. Instead, we enjoyed the tranquility and majesty of the ever-shifting sand dunes in museum-quality, vintage, open-air Land Rover jeeps (a left-over from when the British occupied Dubai.)
We're collected from our hotel at 3:00 p.m., and the full desert experience begins with the tour guides helping us tie our headscarves bedouin-style to protect us from the heat. In fact, the temperatures are milder in the desert than in the city, and it becomes chilly as the evening progresses. Our tour guide deflates the tire pressure of our Land Rover from 30psi, which is the normal highway setting, to 10 psi to produce resistance in the soft surface of the sand. We buckle up and off, we go for a bumpy ride!
Driving through the desert with everything painted in beautiful sunset colors is both different and exactly how I imagined. I'm filled with awe and wonder, trying to compare the things I've seen in movies, read in books, from the actual sprawling terrain before me. In both versions, the desert landscapes look formidably bleak, but in reality, the low, rolling hills make it seem like the sand is alive and moving along in golden lashes on the whim of the sun.
We arrive at the royal grounds and make ourselves comfortable on beautiful Arabic carpets with plump cushions as we prepare to watch a falcon show. The falconer impresses us with the speed and flight of this elegant bird that's been used for ages for hunting in Arabic countries. We're told the falcon is equipped with a tracking device because they have a tendency to fly away, and nobody in Dubai wants to lose their status symbol. A sleepy female voice from the back of our group asks, "Can we have a few of those GPS devices? Some of us need it for our husbands." Hahahaha.
Afterwards, it's a treat to hold the falcon and see it up and close. "Be careful," the falconer cautions me as I slide my hand into the glove on which the falcon is perched. "Don't drop it. That's a $10,000 investment. More expensive than a Rolex watch."
Next up, a short camel ride when we arrive at our bedouin camp. Climbing up and down this ungainly beast is awkward at first, but once you get used to moving with the sway of the camel—from side to side—the ride becomes surprisingly comfortable. We learn some interesting facts from our guide about camels. Did you know that Dubai hosts the biggest competition for the most beautiful camel in the world? "What's the criteria?" my husband asks. "Long eyelashes, double D humps; has to look good in a bikini?" We all laugh at this, but it is true that camels have two rows of long eyelashes to help protect their eyes from blowing sand. I take a second look at my camel, and it's true. So voluminous are it's eyelashes that it looks if it played with its mom's make-up kit!
We end with a local barbecue meal cooked under the stars and sishah for those who want to imbibe. But, wait, there's a special show for us arranged by our hosts. We hold our breath as we witness fire dancers juggling torches under the starlit sky. This unique fire dancing or fire twirling is a manipulation of objects on fire. With the fire blazing, there is a rhythmic beat to follow that mesmerizes us. What a way to end the night!
I believe the desert safari is one of the most authentic experiences Dubai can offer so you must not miss it when you visit! Aaaaah, Arabian desert. . .call me back again!