Do you ever save the best for last? Going to Dubai, we looked forward to many things: the sunshine, poolside drinks, beautiful hotels we had lined up and to discovering this place we’ve never had a chance to explore before. But what I couldn’t wait for the most was the desert trip. To “see a desert” was on my bucket list for ages and I was planning to finally tick it off. That happened on our last day in Dubai.
The anticipation started a few days before when we were greeted by a lovely present in our hotel room – an elegant bag, containing a surprise gift, a desert dinner menu, and a letter. How thoughtful!
The long, 1-hour drive from our hotel was an absolute pleasure thanks to Eric, our guide for the day. Chatty & very knowledgeable guy, who met all the world’s celebrities on the job (and now us, ha!). On our way to the desert, he not only explained everything about the tour but also told us a lot about Dubai, its culture, food, customs, nuances and traditions. All that with a great sense of humour.
Tall buildings of Dubai Marina, Burj Khalifa in the distance, wide empty roads, camel racing track, villas – the view out of my window was changing quickly and then it was mostly sand on both sides of the road. – Looks like we’re close, aren’t we? – Yes, can you see the gate in the distance? That’s our destination, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
That was also our first stop. Eric professionally tied scarves on our heads (I really liked that look so I took lots of selfies then) and we started our gentle drive through the pristine dunes of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with multiple stops for pictures and wildlife spotting. All that from the comfort of an air conditioned, luxurious Range Rover.
– Quick! Quick! Prepare your camera! – Eric spotted a spiny-tailed lizard. – You are so lucky, I never see them on the tours. And looks like we were really lucky that day. We spotted also some gazelles and oryxes gave us a ramming show.
After all the emotions and about 500 photos later, we were brought to an open air lounge, beautifully set up on the sand. It was time for sunset canapes with sparkling date & apple drink and falconry show. We learned a lot about how the Bedouin used to capture and train falcons. The informative session was followed by prey catching show and Summer the falcon gave us a great performance.
I got a little bit distracted towards the end of the chat with the falcon trainer when camels were brought near our lounge. Camels! All my dreams were about to come true (well, I’m exaggerating but that’s kind of how it felt at the moment). It was a mix of emotions for me at that moment. I was about to tick off another bucket list item – a camel ride, but also – are camels really that tall?!
Before I even had a chance to analyse my feelings any further, I was invited to sit on “my” camel. The standing up and sitting down moments are like a wild roller coaster and yes, when you’re up there it is really high. But it’s so much fun too. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The sun was setting when we arrived at our private desert oasis. By that time it all started to feel like a dream. I was sitting on a camel, travelling through the desert, the weather was wonderful, the sunset perfectly timed and the place where we were heading couldn’t look any more fitting. Also, the fact that on that night it was just us two and no other guests made the whole experience feel even more special.
We were welcomed to the oasis in a traditional way, with dates and spiced Arabic coffee. Flame torch light, sand dunes around us, a small pond in the middle and private tables set around. In that serene, intimate setting we had a scrumptious six-course dinner. Shorbat adas soup followed by salads, kibbeh, hummus, stuffed peppers, selection of breads, spinach sambousek, authentic camel-meat dish and this was just a start. We had a break to watch a dance and get a henna tattoo. And then the spectacular meal, which is prepared and cooked in a desert camp kitchen, continued. For our mains, we chose Australian Angus Steak for Hubby and Arabic Spiced Chicken for me. We were really full by that point but still couldn’t say no to desserts. Especially to legimat – Arabic style doughnuts, drizzled with honey and date syrup.
After this elaborate dinner walking, or even slight movements were an issue, so we lied down on carpets, listened to the silence and star gazed for a good half an hour. I didn’t really want to leave, the ambience of that place was fantastic.
tour: Platinum Luxury Desert Safari
more info: platinum-heritage.com
price: Adult AED 1500
good to know: a portion of your fee is contributed towards local conservation