When visiting the United Arab Emirates, a safari though the desert is high on many lists. It was certainly at the top of my list! The sandstorm kept deferring the desert safari and I was becoming nervous that we may not get the opportunity. Luckily the sandstorm ended and allowed us the experience.
Each desert safari company offers different options, but all are similar. The safaris include dune bashing, camel riding, dinner at a Bedouin camp, hookah, henna, and a belly dancing show. Depending on the company, some of these activities could be included or be an extra fee. Either way it is something not to be missed!
Choosing a company was tough! There are so many and I read a ton of different reviews online. Many of them were good so that didn’t help. Between the sandstorm and many of the safaris being booked out over the next 3 weeks it became even more difficult. I suggest if you find one you really want call and reserve a head of time. A few companies were suggested by a couple of people who actually live in Dubai. After a few phone calls, we chose Arabian Nights.
From what I have been told Arabian Nights is one of the older companies that has been around and one of the largest, so getting a reservation isn’t hard. Some desert safari companies will have you meet at certain locations they choose. Others will pick you up from your hotel or apartment and take you back. Arabian Nights picks you up! We were staying in a very new apartment complex that was around the corner from a new hotel that many people didn’t know even existed. Arabian Nights knew exactly where we were, but agreed to pick us up around the corner at the hotel just in case.
I saw so many SUVs pull up because the safaris head out around 3:30pm and were showing up to pick up people at the same time. The driver found us and to my surprise picked us up in a Hummer! Our driver Mohammed was awesome! He had candy and gum and told us to take as much as we wanted. He also stopped to pick up two more people from another hotel.
From there we began to drive away from the glamours city of Dubai towards the desert. Right before we headed to the desert we stopped at the store. Mohammed was very kind and bought everyone water and juice. We too went inside the store and it reminded me of the Gold & Spice Souk. The haggling commenced as everyone was purchasing items. Everyone bought scarves in which the sellers tied on everyone’s head and around their face to protect us from the sand flying around with the wind.
Soon after we continued driving down the highway and then we turned into the desert. We began going over dunes and started following other SUVs. We then stopped so they could let the air out of the tires for dune bashing, which is a form of off-roading. While they let the air out everyone was taking pictures. They also had photographers and videographers going around capturing the moments.
It was pretty chilly out and the sky was grey. I happily put my fleece on as the wind was kicking up. Mohammed fixed my scarf as he put it “the correct way.” Everyone was excited to see the Hummer, as there were only 2 out there. Everyone else were in SUVs. We piled back in the Hummer and began dune bashing. It was a lot of fun and felt like a roller coaster. Everyone stopped again so everyone could take pictures as the sunset over the desert. As soon as we stopped the hummer got stuck in the sand and had to be helped out.
As we continued on, darkness set in as we arrived to the camp. Mohammed informed us that the quad bikes would cost 20 AED extra and were at our own risk to use. They would not be held responsible for anything that happens. I saw why later, when one person ran into a fence. Another hit their friend on another bike. There didn’t seem to be an age limit to use one. Sandboarding was complimentary. I tried it out, I plopped back on my butt, but if you can snowboard I am sure it is easier. There was no one to actually help you so I had asked some other people what I was supposed to do.
They also had camel rides. A lot of people screamed and some kids cried. When the camels stand up or sit down it is pretty rough as you go up and come down. Especially if you are sitting in the front. I learned that the hard way and so on my second ride I decided to sit in the back. Much better place to sit when the camel stands and sits back down!
After taking a couple of laps we decided to head inside and get some food. They had a few appetizers before dinner. There was also alcohol and souvenirs that could be purchased. There was an area to get a henna, try hookah, hold a falcon, and try on traditional clothing. I tried my hand at holding the falcon, which was pretty heavy. I also tried on the clothes. Then I went and got a henna tattoo on my hand.
Not too long after dinner was served. One line for men and another line for women and children. There was bread, rice, chicken, lamb, and some other things. Nothing was labeled so I wasn’t 100% sure what it all was. It was pretty good.
It was getting really cold and I was very happy to have a fleece on. Even with the fleece and the two other shirts I had on underneath I was freezing! I also looked around and saw other people were cold. As we sat and ate a tandoori dancer came out and spun in circles. His outfit even lit up as he twirled and then brought up others to try it out with him. Afterwards a belly dancer came out. She too allowed people to come up and try some moves out with her.
After the performances it was time to go. We were cold so we were happy to get back into the warm car. Once we piled in the car Mohammed handed us pictures and a DVD. He said the picture was from him. Earlier in the day when they were going around with the cameras we took pictures with him. He had gotten the pictures and handed us all one. He then handed us a DVD from the day. I thought that was an amazing touch to end the night. Such amazing keepsakes to take back with us.
See more of my experience first hand!
Have you ever taken a safari in Dubai’s desert? Or in the U.A.E in general? How was your experience if so?