Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dubai Safari

The morning is a free morning; our desert safari starts at 3.00 PM. So we took a taxi to the Gold Souk as we had not seen the details of this large Souk. Carol, to enhance her Indian Ruby ring, thought a ruby pendent would be nice to complement it. We stopped in 3 stores and Carol found a very dark, clean stone of about 2 carat. Now the negotiations were left up to me. I did my best and we settled on 25 % off list price. It takes time to buy and talk but all left happy, so I think the dealer still made out well. Carol sure is happy with her pendent.

I wanted to buy a shirt in Dubai and we walked to the appropriate Souk but found nothing. One has to know the area well and get to know all the people to deal here.

Sahid's Drivers Seat
Knowing that, I went back to the guy in the souvenir shop who sold me the camel pin yesterday. He smiled and recognized me immediately. When I pantomimed I wanted one more pin he knew exactly what I wanted. No more haggling or saying anything. He gave me only the camel pin out of the total set, I paid him and all was done. It was very easy, very fast. We both smiled. Good business.

Getting To the Desert

Back to the hotel, lunch, and off we go via SUV into the desert. While it is a little cooler after 3.30 PM, it is still plenty hot. Lucky the car has A/C. We are 6 passengers in the Toyota Land Cruiser, which the driver, Sahid, is convinced is the best car for desert driving. With its manual shift, it outperforms any other vehicle by any other manufacturer in many ways. His car had over ½ million miles on it and was in perfect condition. It was clean and well maintained. He drives it every day, and every day he uses the 4 wheel drive features in the loose sand of the desert.
They Seem Like Friendly Camels

The way out of town going west sees gradually fewer and fewer houses and then, nothing but desert; as far as one could see only sandy desert. Our first stop, after we drove for about an hour was a camel pen. We just got out of the SUV to stretch and to say hello to the animals, some were feeding on hay and some had young ones, who still nursed. The beasts were used to people and let you pet them, which does not happen often with camels.
Loose Lips
While we were taking pictures, Sahid let some air out of his tires. He went from 35 lbs down to 14 lbs to give him better traction in the sand.

The Camels Mostly Ignored Us
Steep, Rutted Dunes
And oh boy, did he drive like a wild man in the soft sand. All in the car were laughing and bouncing around on the inside while Sahid laughed at us. He drives here everyday and knows the area, knows the curves, the dunes, and his car. Not only him but everybody in the now forming caravan drove like this. A bit of a show for us tourists, but safe enough, I am sure. For us novices to this land, it was an unnecessary risk, but what do I know. 

After being bounced around, traversing some steep dunes and sometimes close to a tip over (that's what it felt like), we joined all the cars in this caravan (20) near a large dune and took a break. All tourists got out of each car and we all walked up this dune. Three steps forward, sliding back 2 steps. It is hell to walk or climb in loose sand. We were huffing and puffing but
Steep Dunes, Hard To Walk Up Them
ultimately, finally made it to the top. Carol had a smile on her face but admitted that this would not be her favorite way to take a walk. The view was lovely, the sun was getting low, the temps were getting lower but it was just a taste of a real desert experience. To be on a journey through the desert must be a very difficult way to travel. Or am I getting old?

We all drifted back to the SUVs and did more sliding around the sand dunes with the cars. It was, (felt to me), like the drivers were trying to outdo each other, showing us who can be the wildest; with yippee's and yahoo’s we arrived in another area were we were given water and then all the cars re-inflated their tires. This took a bit of time, but we were not walking anywhere. The sun now is almost gone but there were too many clouds for good sunset pictures. Yet, I LOVED those clouds; they sure cooled things down a bit.
Beautiful Sky

When all the tires were re-inflated, we drove from there into a desert camp. This was a very, very large area that contains Old Fort-like buildings where we would spend the evening. 20 or so such forts (camps) spread out in this huge area. Our caravan of about 20 SUVs, all white Toyota Land Cruisers, arrived at our designated camp. We were a crowd of about 120 people. We saw some other structures far away but never heard the other camps. Outside of our camp were camels but Carol and I disregarded them and walked into the Fort through a large door, into a large plaza-like
Our Oasis, Al Jabal Village
 setting. All around the 4 walls of the inside camp were stall-like lean-tos made out of wood or other low end building material. It was a shelter from the desert, not a hotel, not a tent, not fancy. But it was effective. The winds that had started to blow, blowing around stinging sand, clouding the vision and eventually stinging the skin painfully, were gone inside this camp, it was a refuge. Some lean-tos were souvenir shops, some were kitchens, sitting areas, eating areas, etc. In the center of the plaza a large stage was erected and we knew we would get some performances. Low tables with about 8 seats each surrounded this stage.

After getting seated we could take a free camel ride outside the Fort but Carol and I opted out of that. We have ridden camels a few times; we knew it would only be a photo op and a few rounds in the parking lot. Carol explored the shops and I enjoyed my soda pop. Ah, this is a tourist version of an experience in an Arab camp, after a long day walking in the desert. Somehow I can understand how it must have felt. I had a sense of accomplishment, a sense of camaraderie, of relying on each other to beat this landscape, this desert. To just relax for the moment, have a much needed drink and lookup at the stars. It was a hard life then, a much simpler life but fulfilling nonetheless.
The Women's Line. Excellent Food

I was shaken out of my reverie when Carol showed me the cashmere shawl she bought at the shop here. It was only $ 12 US and made up for the high cost of her beer which was 30 Dirhams or $ 8.25 US.

Appetizers arrived and all the camel riders came back to their tables. Then a buffet dinner was served. Men formed in one line, woman in another line. I am not sure what the women were served but our food was good. Different way of using spices but the chicken shish-kebob was delicious. We were offered lots and lots of different salads.

Strangely enough, the dessert table was set up for both sexes.

Carol disappeared for a while and then came back with a henna tattoo on her right hand. It had to dry so she was careful. She was told it would last for 2 weeks and then disappear slowly.

The lights dimmed and the music started to play and….. Belly dancing! The woman was tall, blond with long hair and Caucasian with very pale skin. She had a kind of Scandinavian look. I was
Our Belly Dancer
expecting an Arabian beauty. She was a good dancer though, but again, my hormones are not what they used to be. She performed for a good 15 minutes and left with applause.

Next was a whirling dervish in a festive costume. He spun and spun and at one point, his billowing skirt started to light up. And then light up in more and more different colors and patterns. His clothing was electrified with mini light bulbs that could be controlled or programmed. Tech has arrived even in traditional dervish swirling. What an age we live in now.
A Whirling Dervish

The evening was good, relaxed, albeit, of course, touristy.

Our driver Sahid took us back to the hotel.

We had an insight, however shallow, in the ways of the caravan, of the life in the desert. I would have liked to do this again but then slower, on camel, in tents with story telling time and a real camp fire. But I am only dreaming; I know it.  

Electrified Dervish

 تصبح على خير.  (Good Night)


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