“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.
(Left) A few bikers with their machines, and some tourist buses. (Right) We were the first one to arrive!
(Left) All lined up. (Right) Off we go!
(Left) The 30-minute ride was exhilarating beyond words! (Right) A brief stop-over at a camel farm.
(Left) One of the drivers praying Asr. (Right) That’s a traditional camp in the middle of the desert.
We chose to sit outdoors, under the vast sky.
(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:
WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY AND BLESSED EID UL ADHA!