No trip to Dubai can be complete without experiencing the actual sun and sand of this desert city. And the tourists in us decided to do just that with the famous and ultra touristy half day Dubai Desert Safari tour. Well, some may say that it’s just a touristy gimmick and not worth wasting time and money, but I felt that this was something that you should try at least once, as it gives you a small flavor of the old desert life. These tours come as a package that includes – pick and drop from Dubai, dune bashing, camel riding, dance performances in a desert camp, sheesha smoking, arabic coffee and dinner. Now there are numerous tour operators who conduct these tours here, but a word of caution – do check the quality of these before booking, as there are quite a few quality issues and complaints concerning these tours too.
We booked our tour through recommendations received from friends and set out for our ride at 3pm along with 3 other tourists (2 were from NZ and 1 from Nigeria). Our driver, Sadiq was super fun – he turned out to be a mallu from India, had starred in small roles in numerous movies and was super talkative. He drove us through a completely new way and kept showing us different things. In Dubai, we saw the current Prince’s palace, Dubai’s national Park, etc and on the outskirts of Dubai we saw the numerous villas where a lot of locals stay, the small areas where the not so well off of Dubai stay, local Arab families snow boarding and quad biking, camels leisurely walking around, etc. I guess this was as village a scene as was possible in Dubai. 🙂 But the two best sights that we saw en route were –
- Al Marmoom camel racetrack – This is a proper stadium with a race tracks for camel racing and we saw people training camels for the actual races. These races are a very serious affair here and held from October to March every year.
- The Dragon Mart Mall – This is a huge Chinese Mall shaped like a dragon and full of all kinds of ultra cheap chinese products. If you are looking for that kind of stuff then a visit here is a must.
We however didn’t stop here (though I have added them to my must visit list for the next trip) and proceeded further for dune bashing. We reached the particular place where Sadiq deflated the tires and we proceeded for the actual dune bashing fun. Now there were some instances in the past where the local drivers were driving too rashly on these dunes, which led to numerous complaints. Hence the Ministry has now set out some clear rules which includes not going above a certain speed. Despite that this was super fun. To get a sense of this ride, imagine a large sand hillock which the car first climbs upwards (so you are nearly vertical going up), then rides along a narrow ledge (only 2 tires on the ledge and 2 downwards hence you are inclined sideways) and then climbs downwards (so you feel you are falling down). It is super fun, but if you have motion sickness or vertigo, then do bring your medicines with you. 🙂
After a while we got off and then clicked pictures of the beautiful dunes and hills all around and posed in the jumping masai mala poses etc. We then headed towards our desert camp for the balance part of our program. Here there was a beautiful low seating against the sands and the setting sun.We enjoyed taking more pictures, checking out the local souvenirs and the arabic coffee. We then decided to try camel riding, but didn’t after seeing how the camel was being treated. 😦
By this time the sun had set, and we went and sat down on our seats to enjoy the dances.
There were 3 main performances for the evening and it started with the fire dance. This was a short performance and quite different form what we have always seen in India.
This was followed by an awesome Tannoura dance. Now this is an Egyptian sufi folk dance, where the performer wears a colorful skirt and keeps whirling and juggling with numerous objects. This was the first tannoura performance that I saw and was quite fascinated with it. It is a definite must see.
But the most awaited performance was the belly dance. This was performed by a beautiful dancer with the most flexible body and amazing moves. I so wish that I could move like that 😦 I’ll try to upload videos soon.
Post these dances we had a dinner (they had numerous veg options) and then proceeded back to the city.
Tips for the Trip –
- This half day trip should cost you anywhere between 100 – 150 dirham. Be sure to negotiate if you are in a group.
- At the end of the safari, the drivers stop at shops to inflate the tyres which have attached souvenir shops. Try and avoid shopping here as these shops are quite expensive.
- Be sure to check the quality / rating of these before actually booking them.