Dubai! The city of stupid too-big buildings. Yay! I’ll write more about the buildings and the city itself in a future blog post. This one is about my trip to the dessert.
I had two full days in Dubai, from the morning of the 4th of April to the evening of the 5th. The cruise ship was staying over night, so I didn’t have to be back before it sailed in the evening. Great!
Here’s a nice HDR photo of the Queen Victoria at the Dubai cruise terminal. It was docked just behind the now decommissioned Queen Elizabeth 2, the old Cunard flagship, and a ship I worked on back in 2007. Pity I couldn’t get a photo of the two ships together, due to a fence in the way.
So, what should I do on an overnight stay in Dubai?
I decided to go on an evening dessert safari. I booked it online the night before, and got a text message to say when and where I’d be picked up.
There are over 3,000 apartment hotels in Dubai, so even if the driver works 350 days a year, he might never return to the same hotel twice. This is a good thing, for me anyway, because he couldn’t find the hotel at first, so picked me up, and then went again to find the right hotel. This meant I was first in the Landcruiser, so took the front seat.
The skyline of Dubai from the ring motorway.
We drove out to the desert, stopping on the way a few times to buy drinks, food (I bought a Kinder Egg as it was Easter Sunday), and tourist trap tat. This is me after someone tried to convince me to buy a head scarf by actually wrapping it round my head.
At the entrance to the dune area of the desert, our driver let loads of air out of each tire. More surface area = more grip on sand.
And we’re off…
Us and loads of others! Each evening there are hundreds and hundreds of trucks ranging through this area of the desert.
We were generally the third in a group of three trucks operated by the same company.
The driving was quite intense! We were told to hang on, and say if we got motion sickness. I did get a bit queasy, to be honest, but not too bad.
I understand why this is such a popular activity. It’s really, really good fun! Imagine a roller coaster ride, but one that lasts for about 45 minutes, and the driver is making up the route as he goes along. 45 minutes doesn’t sound like very long, but like I said, imagine a 45 minute long roller coaster ride.
We stopped on a large dune to take photos. Everyone else in the truck (except for the driver) knew each other through mutual friends. It’s a pity I can’t remember any of their names, though I did email them these photos afterward. These two were teaching in Korea (I think) and were stopping in Dubai for a few days on their way back to the UK.
These three were foreign workers in Dubai, from India, who worked with a friend of the above two.
Our driver showed off a bit so we could take photos while not in the truck.
The view inside.
After driving through the desert, we took a long empty road. Well, it wasn’t empty, but the only other vehicles were other dessert safari trucks. It was a surreal experience, because the road was a dual carriageway, but with no barriers. Because all the traffic was moving in the same direction, it felt like a scene from a movie, with the random overtaking and undertaking and general weird driving.
We stopped at a camel farm. Only one other truck, out of the hundreds, stopped along with us, so I guess the driver knew someone who worked at the farm.
I drank camel milk. It tasted sweet and salty. Weird.
I took a photos of the sunset and videoed myself juggling too. Unfortunately my tripod sank into the sand while I ran forward to juggle, and the tipped back. The resulting shot is a bit crap. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll visit another desert some day.
Then we drove to a camp for dinner and show. There are dozens of these spread out through the desert, to cater for the hundreds of trucks and thousands of people who turn up each night.
I rode on a camel. Warning: camels stand up and kneel down in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times.
The first show, pre-dinner, was whirling dervish artist. He span. A lot. And span and span and span. And did fun manipulation with drums and umbrellas and his costume.
He even had a glow section of his show.
Here’s the henna tattoo artist doing her thing.
The dinner was a buffet. The queue had already grown to about a hundred people, but as we walked over one of the servers said “This table is open too, you know.” Due to lucky timing I was second in the new line.
The second show featured a belly dancer. By this time it was really dark. I wish I’d taken my 50mm 1.8 lens, to work better with the low light. But I only had my zoom lenses, so I had to get creative.
The dancer did her thing, and was mildly entertaining. Then she got to the audience participation part. The volunteer she chose was on of the Indians from our truck. He completely stole the show. I think he was meant to copy the dancer, but he just did his own thing with twice the charisma and energy.
At the very end of the show she invited everyone on stage to have a go.
The night ended with a long drive back to Dubai. I thought I’d sleep all the way, but I didn’t. It was much more fun to listen to the driver (who was from Pakistan) and the other passengers have a conversation in Hindi. It turns out I could follow the conversation easily, due to the fact that half of the words were English, international, or otherwise blatantly obvious.
In all, the desert safari was a great evening and night out, made better by the fun company. I see why the trips are so popular, and I’d recommend it to anyone who visits Dubai for more than a few days. It only cost about 60 dollars too, which I think is great value for the enjoyment received.