I personally think that no visit to Dubai is complete without a bouncy ride through the desert in a 4×4. While in Dubai this past February with Sam we did just that when went on a desert safari that I booked through our hotel.
Our driver picked us up at the hotel in a white Land Cruiser along with two other couples. One couple was a 30 something man and woman from Croatia and the other was two 50-60 something women from Australia. The Australians were on the return leg of a trip to Iceland, whew, now that’s a long trip, Australia to Iceland and back!
The first thing you notice while you are on the highway on your way out of the city is the caravan of white Land Cruisers you are a part of. Most of the companies that take people to the desert for safari use white Land Cruisers and they all leave around the same time, late afternoon, so you become part of this long line of identical vehicles lining the road.
When you get fairly close to the turn off to the desert, everyone pulls over to a rest stop to let air out of the tires, you need slightly flat tires to handle driving on the sand dunes.
Back on the road again and we noticed these tents in several areas along the highway and asked our driver about them.
Our driver explained that during the winter, some people move from their summer homes into tents in the desert.
We made our turn into the desert and our driver put on what I call his “jam” music. It was very loud Arabic dance music. I am sure it is the same music that he listens to for every safari he leads. I actually really liked the music and quite frankly figured whatever kept him at his best for driving on these dunes and would prevent him from rolling the car or getting us stuck on a dune, I was up for. Yes, we did see a car stuck on a dune. I guess Land Cruisers can handle ALMOST every type of terrain, but even they occasionally succumb to the desert.
We went upppppp the dunes and then dooooooown the dunes, over and over again. Sometimes the car actually slid sideways down the dunes and there was a huge spray of sand down the entire side of the car. It was interesting trying to take photos from the middle row with only one hand while hanging on to a handle with the other, and sometimes throwing an arm around Sam for good measure, you know, the mommy arm across his chest. I knew this was safe, good seat belts and a roll bar, it was a Land Cruiser, don’t forget. While I don’t like roller coasters, I don’t get car sick, so I was fine. I was worried about Sam. He was a total trooper, I repeatedly kept asking if he was ok and he nodded. The driver had given everyone car sick bags, ha! Towards the end of the ride, a woman behind us got sick in her bag. A few minutes later we were done with the dune sufing and were heading toward our dinner and entertainment for the evening, a desert barbecue. Sam said he was not feeling well, this was right after the woman got sick, at the very end of the drive, as we were literally pulling into the drop off point for the barbecue. I tried to get the plastic bag over his mouth. Apparently he did not like having a plastic bag almost over his mouth, go figure, and just did not understand why I was doing it and kept pushing it away. We stopped and as our driver opened the door of the car, I tried to push Sam out, but could not since he was belted in so tightly (darn safety). He threw up, mostly outside the open door on to the sand, but a bit on the edge of the car and on his clothing, none of it went into the plastic bag I was desperately trying to shove at him. I took off his outer shirt that took the brunt of it, put it in a plastic bag and we proceeded to dinner, can’t let a little throw up ruin your night!
At our drop off point we were greeted by camels waiting for riders. We walked into a compound of makeshift buildings surrounding an eating area and stage. Greeting you at the entrance to the compound was a man in Emirati clothing holding a falcon. While today falconry is purely for sport, it used to be a traditional part of desert life for both hunting and socializing.
Sam’s favorite thing to do as people socialized before dinner, was kicking sand, rolling in sand and engaging in any sand related activity.
Before it got too dark, we decided to see about that camel ride. It’s not getting on or off a camel that is difficult, it’s when they stand up or sit down to let you on or off that is hard. You get dipped waaaaaay down, almost to the point that you feel like you are going to fall forward and off the camel. Sam was in front of me so I had the mommy grip on his coat as the camel stood up or sat down. All moms know that mommy grip right? the same one I did as I threw my arm over him during the ride on the dunes.
During dinner the entertainment began with a belly dancer. She was followed by a whirling dervish or Egyptian folk dancer. He had lighting built into his clothing that created a psychedelic effect as he whirled and twirled until it was literally a blurry flurry of colored lights.
I found this video of a whirling dervish in Dubai.
After dinner they continued to play music and kids started dancing on the stage, Sam got in on the act, but his was more of a robot interpretation.
I highly recommend a desert drive in Dubai, but remember, it gets cold at night in the desert so bring your coat and if necessary, your motion sickness medication, but otherwise, just enjoy the ride!