It’s amazing to think how the huge metropolis of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been built upon endless deserts long ago.They don’t fondly call the UAE ‘the sand pit’ for no reason.
The emirates / cities are entirely surrounded by desert so when you are in the region, I highly suggest you take the time to play in the natural sand box.
And here are some of the things that you can do….CAMELS
It was my first time to be in a desert, and to see camels in their natural habitat at that! I have seen very sad looking camels in zoos before and there is a stark difference when animals are in their natural homes.
These camels were very VERY friendly and happy! They were very affectionate, curious and gentle. And NO, they did not spit at all. I think that’s an urban legend. These bunch were very happy for me to rub their cheeks and be fed abit of grass.
Well this was a camel farm and these camels with me are babies /teenagers. They are bred and will be trained to race so they are lean and lithe.
4-WHEEL DRIVE ADVENTURE
Desert Safari Tours offers an exciting 4-wheel drive adventure vehicle tours in the desert. And I don’t mean a cruise-y leisurely drive. I mean rolling up and down the dunes kind of ride! Yes, you will get car-sick.
I almost did, but thankfully didn’t need the bucket (or plastic bag for that matter) but boy was it fun!
I asked our driver if he can let me have a go at driving but unfortunately I’d been turned down. (Sigh)
Well it does take a different kind of driving skill at a desert. First off, all the car tires had to be deflated (so that we don’t shoot off as you need to drive fast to avoid being stuck, I presume). And second, all the 4WD’s were manual.
Now this adventure revealed 3 things to me:
1.) Camels probably DO spit! why else would our camel have that mask on?? But hold on, maybe only grumpy ones do because..
2.) This camel was very grumpy and vocal. It grumbled the entire ride. It’s a very strange sound I had never heard before, it almost sounds like an angry and possessed R2D2. I don’t know camel speak but I can almost understand what it was grumbling about. Low pay, bad food, and why the devil does he have to carry tourists round and round the whole day?? . That’s the best I could find but my camel above, it wasn’t just letting out one-syllabled grunts…I swear it was saying WORDS!
3.) It’s SO NOT “just like riding a horse”. Mounting a camel is easy because it can kneel down (like in it’s rest position). But when it starts to get up (or forced to), gosh the feeling is like being catapulted back and forth. First you get sort of thrown backwards, so you really need to hold on tight! And then you almost get shot forwards the second time. Whew! Thankfully it’s just the standing up part that’s slightly terrifying. The stark difference between riding a camel vs a horse: back to number 2. I’ve never ridden a grumpy horse.
DINNER UNDER THE DESERT SKY
After doing all of the above activities, there’s nothing better to wrap up your Arabian night than by having dinner in the middle of the desert.
This spread was just so relaxing. The night was starting to get cool. I could have fallen asleep right then and there in those persian rugs and pillows. But how could I sleep when there’s a generous buffet of Arabian spread for dinner? Lamb kebabs, salads, tabouleh, pitas , chicken skewers dip, teas and fruit…
RELAX WITH SOME SHISHA
After dinner, when we headed back to the carpet “chilaxing” area spread, we found individual shisha (or hookah) pipes set up for us. Now this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But when in the Middle East, relax as the Middle Easterns do. This is not some “taboo” hashish as the hookah nowadays is being unfortunately associated to. It is a social “winding down” activity that is normally done after a meal to aid digestion, and to help you relax after a long day.
After doing all of the above in 1 afternoon? I did relax. Very royally.
I am saving the ultimate best activity (that I did anyway) when you are in the Arabian desert for my next post. Stay tuned!
Huge thanks to Etihad Airways for this trip to Abu Dhabi. All opinions are entirely my own.