I would imagine when most people are asked to think of Dubai what immediately springs to mind is skyscrapers, neon lights, that 7* sail-shaped hotel, The Palm, oh and I think it’s hot all year round. Am I right? What I, and I’m sure a lot of people forget is that Dubai is a city built on desert, and therefore surrounded by it. The UAE’s desert makes up a small part of the enormous Arabian Desert that stretches from the south of Yemen, to Jordan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s no Sahara, which is nearly four times the size, but the wilderness of the Arabian Desert is still something pretty spectacular.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to drive a 4×4 dune buggy, or own their own camel to go trekking with. So luckily Arabian Nights – one of many tour operators – has designed a tour to give you an overview of not only the UAE’s finest desert landscape, but a glimpse into traditional Bedouin life. The tour is a great experience for not only holiday makers, but expats living and working in Dubai. If you have visitors in Dubai it’s a fun filled day to entertain them, and great for all ages!
The tour starts at 3pm when a driver in a 4×4 Land Cruiser will pick you up from your chosen destination (in Dubai!), and drive you away from the urban hub, into the middle of nowhere, which takes about an hour. Just before the driver leaves the tarmac and heads out onto the sandy plains, he will take a pit-stop to let air out of the tyres. Prepare yourself to get hassled by a few guys selling scarfs, hats and drinks.
Now the fun begins… or the terror for the feint-hearted! You will spend about 40 minutes driving up, down and sideways across the never-ending sand dunes, stopping for a few photo opportunities on the way. If you’re someone who gets easily car sick, best to sit in the front seat and maybe think about taking a motion-sickness tablet before you leave. The drivers are understandably very skilled at driving in the desert given that most have been doing it for years, so you’re in good hands! It is super fun, and I enjoyed every minute.
As the sun sets across the desert you can get some incredible photographs, and the fiery, red-coloured sand transforms into different shades.
You may be lucky enough to see a few wild camels along the way, or camel farms. The government say there are thousands of camels roaming around the desert, but they are harder to spot than you may think! The Arabian camel is traditionally used as a work animal for riding and carrying large loads. Even today in some cultures a person is judged on their wealth by how many camels they own. Today in the UAE you can even go and watch the camels racing on special racetracks – something you wouldn’t see everyday in most places!
Did you know…
It’s a common belief that camels store water in their hump(s), but this is a myth. They store fat in their humps, and should they start to lack energy they will burn some of the fat stored in the hump to survive. If a camel has been without food or very dehydrated for a while their hump may have deflated and hang to one side. As soon as they have had sufficient food, water or rest, their hump will retain its normal shape and hardness.
After the sun has set you make your way to a Bedouin style campsite, where you’ll have the opportunity to ride a camel, go sand-boarding, hold a falcon, try on the traditional dress and taste some local Arabic dishes.
All food and soft drinks are included in the price of the tour, and after dinner I would recommend trying a shisha. Shortly after the dinner has been served, you will be treated to a spot of live entertainment, including a Tanoura dancer (traditional folk dance) and a belly-dancer.
At 9pm the campsite closes and your driver will take you back to your drop-off point in Dubai. Usually you will be home by 22:30pm.
The cost of the tour is $82.00, or roughly 300 AED.
For more information, you can visit the Arabian Nights website: http://arabiannightstours.com/. Other companies are available.
Yes the tour can be a bit touristy, and when it’s peak season you certainly won’t be on your own doing it. However it’s a bit of fun, and gives you the chance to sample the sights of the Arabian Desert.
1.Take some water and a snack for the car journey you might get a bit hungry on the journey out to the desert.
2. Wear a pair of sunglasses – when taking photos the wind tends to blow the sand, and the last thing you want is sand in your eye in the middle of the desert!
3. If you can get hold of or buy an Entertainer Family book in Dubai, there are buy one get one free vouchers inside for the Desert Tour, just be sure to mention you have a voucher when making the booking!