The Desert: Upclose and Personal

“What land can equal the desert with its wide plains, its grim mountains, and its expanding canopy of sky!  You shall never see elsewhere as here the sunset valleys swimming in a pink and lilac haze.  Never again shall you see such light and air and color;  never such opaline mirage, such rosy dawn, such fiery twilight.” John C. Van Dyke

Such is the beauty of the desert – warm and mysterious.  In my two years of living here in the U.A.E., I have always been aware that I am in the middle of the desert:  the burning summer, the humid evenings, the constant hum of the air conditioners, the dusty winds, and the lack of rain.  It was only last Friday, however, that I actually felt being in the desert.

Masood’s cousins from Karachi flew in to visit us and we all went to experience the Desert Safari.  This is the best time of the year for this ride.  We had booked in advance, and the driver came to pick us up in a Land Cruiser at exactly 3:30 p.m.  He’s an Emirati, but like a lot of locals , he spoke Urdu quite fluently.  He hummed to Hindi songs in the car.

We drove away from the city for about 40 minutes.  He told us that the desert on the right belongs to Dubai, while the left belongs to Sharjah.  Desert Safari is prohibited in Sharjah.  You can see the difference:  Dubai desert has tire tracks and a few scattered coke cans and  mineral water bottles, while Sharjah desert remains untouched and clean.  You can see the tracks made by the wind, as it glided over the red sand.  At one point into the desert, but still on concrete road, we waited for the other cars to come.  Desert safari drivers don’t go into the desert alone, that’s way too risky.  A family of four had once been reported to have gone for a ride all by themselves, got lost, and eventually sank into the soft desert sand.  Finally, when all six Land Cruisers had lined up, the drivers deflated the tires, got in, instructed everyone in the car to buckle up, and started the engines.

The Bikers

(Left)  A few bikers with their machines, and some tourist buses.  (Right)  We were the first one to arrive!

All lined up! Weeeeee!

(Left) All lined up.  (Right) Off we go!

Desert Safari Camels

(Left)  The 30-minute ride was exhilarating beyond words!  (Right)  A brief stop-over at a camel farm.

Namaaz We're here

(Left)  One of the drivers praying Asr.  (Right)  That’s a traditional camp in the middle of the desert.

Indoors Outdoors

We chose to sit outdoors, under the vast sky.

Shops Coffee

(Left)  Tourists having their pictures taken in traditional clothes.  (Right)  Unlimited coffee and tea.

Other stuff included in the Dh 180 Desert Safari package:  camel ride, unlimited soft drinks, henna painting, sheesha, and dinner.  Food included BBQ chicken (which was really good), fried rice, biryani, chicken/mutton/vegetable curry, salad, humus, chapati, and naan.   For dessert, fruits and vanilla custard was served.

Stuff not included in the package:  popcorn that was being prepared within the camp, and desert bikes.  If you want to try out the bikes,  pay Dh 50 for a 10-minute ride.  Also, there’s a photographer who will take your picture;  if you don’t like the result, you can refuse to take the picture, otherwise it costs Dh 50 per picture.  We took one.

The night ended with a 30-minute belly dance show.

On our way out of the desert and back into civilization, the driver amazed us.  There was nothing except darkness and sand;  he expertly manouvered his way out of the vast desert and back to the concrete road.

For all those visiting the U.A.E, I highly recommend experiencing the desert safari.  Masood and I loved it so much that we decide to try it again soon.

The following video will give you an idea on what we had experienced out there in the desert:


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15 Responses to The Desert: Upclose and Personal

  1. Sabiha says:

    Eid Mubarak Sis! Masha allah, that looks like a really great adventure! I think my husband knows better than to take me to anywhere so awesome as Dubai, I would not want to come home! lol.

    That is really great though that the trip was so cool, insha’allah one day I will get to visit Dubai.

    LOL @ not wanting to come home! But seriously, if you both want, you can get good jobs here too.

  2. Haleem says:

    Wow, looks cool!

    A definite must-do when you and Mona visit Dubai 🙂

  3. Abid says:

    First of all, Happy Eid ul Adha!

    “This is the best time of the year for this ride. ”
    Yes it is. June 28, 2008, however, was not a good time. We were sweating just sitting there. Although the desert did cool down at night, the daytime temperature was 48 degrees Celsius, and at night was around 25-30. It was HOT!

    “He’s an Emirati, but like a lot of locals , he spoke Urdu quite fluently. He hummed to Hindi songs in the car.”
    Our driver was a Pathan. He hummed to Pashto music. And there was another (white) Canadian in our car also. He started humming to Pashto music also! And then my uncle started talking to him in Pashto (he’s been to NWFP many times, lives in Islamabad).

    And, your picture of the camels looks almost exactly like the one I took. I’ll see if I can find it and post it on my blog!

    “Food included … humus”
    I tried hummus at the desert safari. But then again I tried hummus at almost every meal for the three weeks I was in the UAE lol.

    “otherwise it costs Dh 50 per picture. We took one.”
    Yay so did we. And it’s not even framed. Actually I think my mom hung it on the wall last time I checked.

    Nobody should even be here in the U.A.E. in June, let alone go for desert safari! Pushto music – it’s not that bad, you could’ve hummed along yourself too. The camels – I have the feeling they’re the same flock, lol. Dh 50 picture – ours had a lovely frame and we even got a CD (although we never knew what was in it because it never played, hehe)

  4. Abid says:

    God that was a long comment! 😛

    Hehe, it’s a post in itself. Thank you 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Desert: Upclose and Personal | Tea Break

  6. Amy says:

    Eid Mubarak sis! May you have a Eid filled with joys and happiness.

    Wow! Dubai seems a wonderful place to be!

    lol weird question.. I was just wondering if you ever had a horse or camel ride there in the desert or otherwise? :d

    Khair Mubarak and ameen 🙂

    I have had experienced riding a horse, camel, and an elephant – all in Karachi. Masood and I didn’t try the camel ride at the desert because we saw that the camel was tired of carrying people, standing up and sitting down countless times. The camel eventually gave up and wouldn’t stand, so in order to get him to stand, the owner would hit him with a stick. It was too brutal for us to see, so we decided not to ride the camel. Poor thing – everyone told the owner not to hurt him.

  7. masood says:

    Awesome and simply fascinating post, I love it :). I guess the people need to read your post to have equal fun of actually being in real desert safari:)

    Aww, thanks, Jaan. But we both know well that the thrill and excitement of the ride can’t be justified by words or pictures alone 🙂

  8. Amy says:

    Aww.. how cruel!!! I have also taken these rides in Karachi but to be honest I found them kinda boring.. because they walk so slowly, it just mess up the fun one can have whilst riding horse or camel.(talking about the rides at beach, don’t know if there are some other places aswell?) But as I had been hearing since childhood that camel is the horse of a desert, so since then I’m dreaming of a super fast ride at a desert! LOL

    p.s. This snow looks cool on your blog.. talking of desert and snow! sounds superstitious! hehe

    Yes, very cruel indeed 😦

    Camel rides are fun only when it gets up or sits down, rest is boring. And I’ve heard that camels are the ships of the desert. Racing camels can run at 18 mph for one hour or 7 mph for up to 18 hours, but the free camel ride at the desert safari is slower than our Karachi camel, hehehe.

  9. Amir says:

    Very cool and Eid Mubarak to you both 🙂

    Khair mubarak 🙂

  10. Jus says:

    What did u think of the belly dance?

    It reminded me to lose weight 🙂

  11. Eid Mubarak to you too Nadia!

    MashAllah, I’m practically green with envy!! That sounds AMAZING!! If I ever visit my brother in Dubai I’ll be sure to make him take me on one… =)

    btw. Have you seen Out & About? Dumb question I know (I mean I’d bet my blog you have since you live there) buttt the real question is, have you ever seen her do something and then up and did it yourself? Lol. I know I want to, and I’m in Syria!

    I haven’t seen Out and About, so your question isn’t dumb 🙂

  12. saadil says:

    Another gem of a info-fun-post! 🙂

    A line of a prominent urdu poet, Ubaidullah Aleem says; ab sehraon say laatay hain phoolon kay nazranay log! ..
    And I say; ab sehraon par likhtay hain lovely safarnamay log! lolls ..

    Haha, thanks a lot, Aadil! Kiya khoob farmaya hai aap ne 🙂

  13. misspecs says:

    I’ve been on hunting safaris in the Cholistan Desert (they’re private affairs) and this is pretty much like it. Though there was no yummy food at the end of the trip. It was fun one way but after three days of this jumping and bumping, I couldn’t wait for the car to run on a proper road again! But it was amazingly fun.

    Dubai seems such a happening place: there’s so much for you ppl to do!

    Hunting safari, sounds like tremendous fun! This desert safari here lasts for only 30 minutes, the crazy ride, I mean. And I was like, “Bas, hogaya kiya?” I didn’t want it to end yet. But three days seem too much though, hehe.

  14. misspecs says:

    Oh and funnily enough…it was snowing over the video of the desert. LOL. 🙂

    Haan na, lol 😀

  15. Asma Ahsan says:

    I haven’t been there yet – planning to go now soon. I have heard its awesome! 🙂

    Yes, you should. And hurry up – it won’t be fun after March 😀

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