The United Arab Emirates, with it’s outstretched sky scrapers and vast sand dunes does a spectacular job of highlighting the differences between modern living and traditional ways of life… If there’s one thing you do whilst exploring the contradictory nature of the UAE, make it a desert safari!
After being collected from a local shopping centre at 3.30pm (Etihad Plaza, Khalifa City, for those of you familiar with the area), we begun the hour long highway journey into the desert. Before long we pulled off the main road and bumped along for 10 minutes or so off-road until we reached our awaiting 4WDs.
Without doubt the 25 minutes of dune bashing was amongst the most fun I’ve had in Abu Dhabi! Our driver, Mohammed, was remarkably skilled; he had a clear understanding of just how far he could push the LandCruiser, maximising our squeals whilst ensuring a safe and comfortable ride the whole time. In convoy, we surfed up and down the dunes before stopping to enjoy the sunset and snap a few photos. All too soon though our ride was over – the consolation though was that we knew we were headed off to make some new camel friends…
I’d had my heart set on riding a camel since we began investigating our move to Abu Dhabi so there was no doubt I was excited to get up close to one of these Arabian beauties. Though we did manage a ride, it was disappointingly short so if you’re anything like me (ridiculously excited about camels), you may like to temper your expectations ahead of time, or look into joining a desert safari that makes this part of the evening a focus.
Regardless, I wouldn’t have wanted to cut down on our dune bashing time so I really shouldn’t complain!
Our camel ride was just outside of the camp where we spent the reminder of the evening, enjoying an authentic Arabian barbecue and relaxing under clear skies. Before long, a belly dancer took to the stage and the women were invited up to join her… this quickly turned into a muddle of everyone jumping along to modern radio hits – a sure fire way to make friends if you’re travelling solo. Shisha (fruit flavoured tobacco which is popular in this part of the world) was available for those that wanted to partake, as was henna and a range of traditional clothes to allow you to get right into the spirit of things.
Having relaxed for the evening, it was time to pile back into our 4WDs and make our way back to the mini-buses headed for Abu Dhabi.
The desert safari proved to be a great introduction to the more traditional way of life that Emirati’s would have lived in years gone by, whilst providing us with a fun night out!
If you’re wanting to head out on safari, I’d suggest keeping an eye on Groupon as we managed to pick up a great deal (and they often come up). The both of us paid 299AED, which included all activities, transport, dinner and soft drinks for the night (that’s only USd40 or NZD60 each; great value in my books).
I can’t wait ’till April when my mum and stepdad arrive so we can take them out into the desert too!
It is worth noting that though the dune bashing was exciting, it would suit the majority of age groups and everyone from the more nervous passenger to real adrenaline junkies; it was just great fun! Don’t let the idea of 4 wheel driving like this put you off.