I find it amusing that having lived in the UAE for 11 months, and transiting through Dubai almost 3 times a year for 4 years, I haven’t experienced the famous desert safari. That on my latest trip to Dubai, I did not let go of the chance.
Finding 200AED or $55 a little steep for this adventure, I searched online for cheaper rates. Mr. Google decided to be helpful that day and found a safari for 85AED. Very good deal!
Pick-up time for the safari was at 3:30pm then we set off to Al Awir area. We stopped for a while at the mouth of the desert to release air from the vehicle tires to improve the tires’ grip on the sand. Our safari group is a 11-vehicle convoy of about 5 tourists in each.
After 15 minutes or so, it was time for dune-bashing, the highlight of the safari. It was like a roller coaster ride with our Land Cruiser tackling sand dunes of various heights and slopes. I might have prepared for it as I did not find myself frightened but was on the look-out for more! When I got the hang of it, I started taking photos of the action, though they were not the best as I was seated at the back. There were a few dune-bashing surprises that the driver pulled, and one can never really be prepared!
The dune bashing experience lasted for about 30 minutes. We passed by herds of camel and other safari camps and saw military students in the middle of training. It was almost sunset when we reached our safari camp.
The camp is Bedouin-style with majilis tents with carpets and pillows. In the middle is a make-shift stage for the belly-dancing and tanoura show with arabic-style tables surrounding it.
To the right of the parking lot is the buggy ride area (which I did not try since the cheapskate in me prevailed!). The left side is the area for a quick camel ride (which I was not excited about since I already experienced a long one in Sahara and I didn’t like it!). But anyway, I still went and shared a camel ride with a stranger, reminiscing my Sahara days. One thing I can say, you can never really get used to a camel rising up and sitting down with you on its back. I still had the same fright as when I rode a camel the first time.
One activity I was really looking forward to is dune sandboarding 🙂 I wanted to test my courage see if I will not chicken out. The dune is located behind the camp and I was disappointed that there was no staff present to assist. Sandboards were lying in the ground, and it was up for one to experiment on how to use them. Hehe… I started midway to the bottom, sitting while trying to have a ready grasp of the board, until I felt confident enough to stand up while on my way down. It was a lot of fun!
After sandboarding, it was time to hit the camp to check out other activities. There were sand art in bottles, arabic/belly dancing costumes and grilled corn for sale in various stalls.
Today, henna tattoo suddenly became appealing to me, and since it can be had for free, I decided to give it a try. The lady doing the tattoo was an expert, doodling lines and curves in my hands just like that. I left the tent satisfied with my hand’s new accessory 🙂
Later, it was time for some Arabic entertainment. Belly-dancing time! The dancer didn’t fail to impress me with her belly moves. Whew! She was dancing non-stop that it kept me wondering how she does it. She is not a dancer, but an acrobat! She just dances with grace that makes me drool with envy.
Then it was time for dinner. Dinner consists of buffet arabic bread, arabic appetizers and salads, Indian (?) or Arabic (?) vegetarian dishes, chicken, beef and kebab barbecue and fruits for dessert. Standard drinks of water, softdrinks, tea and coffee are overflowing. Shisha, too!
After dinner was time for the Tanoura dance. I thought the belly-dancing was already impressive. This dance left me awestruck! It reminded me a lot of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, only that this is more festive. At first I wasn’t really paying much attention to the dancer as he was just spinning around and I was waiting for him to change his steps. Minutes have passed, and he was still turning… I noticed his colorful skirt and how beautifully it looks as he spins continuously. Then he takes his skirt off and plays with it while still turning, colors, lights and all. Wow! I was so impressed that I went up to the Tanoura dancer to compliment him of his performance.
The Tanoura dance concludes the safari. After a short but mild dune-bashing on our way back to the city, we reached Dubai at 9pm after an afternoon well spent at the desert.
I enjoyed the safari because I had been open to adventures that day. I bravely tried sandboarding and proud that I slid nicely over the sand without falling. I tried henna tattoo, proof that I have started to appreciated this body art.
Overall, the desert safari offered a taste of desert fun suitable for all ages. It is something that I would certainly do again and surely an activity that I highly recommend if you happen to be within the Arabic location.