I’ve been to the desert many times – for bbq, for picnic, just for photography, and camping too; but this was my first time ever on a desert safari trip after living in dubai for almost 5 years. if you’re visiting dubai, this activity should be top in your list of must-do! dune bashing, henna-painting, camel-riding, belly-dancing & bbq-eatin – all in one place. desert safari yo!
if you’re wondering, actually it IS already summer in dubai – scorching HOT and sticky! haha. but I went for this desert safari around february, when it was still nice and cool. the weather was fantastic for a night out in the desert.
another great thing about my first trip to the desert safari was that I went with my bff – no screaming kids, no husband – just me and my gal pal put. girls day out. it was a blast.
(two of my best friends from school are currently in london doing phd, and last feb, one of them came to dubai en route malaysia-london. hi putri aka put!)
here’s our adventure at the desert safari – just two girls out in the WILD! haha.
me & put on a desert safari!
now that’s the view of the entire area of our desert safari : quad biking at the far back, camel-riding on the right and the square area (that looks like a refugee camp according to my eldest sis) is for the main event – makan-makan and of course the entertainment.
the place is awesome. many fun activities to do including shisha, henna-painting, dressing up like the arabs and souvenir shops. there’s even a playground made of wood!
also, most importantly, very clean toilet. I was thoroughly impressed, and entertained!
here’s put in the 4x4 that took us to the desert safari area
ok mr. khairul hooked us up with this fantastic deal, and you can do the same with so many desert-safari operators in dubai or abu dhabi thru the magic of google.
- first, we waited at spinneys near burjuman for pick-up at 3.30pm to board a mini-bus
- we checked our names, and went off for a 1-hour bus ride to a desert spot – the ride was comfy and smooth-sailing
- arrive by the side of the road along the desert, all passengers got off and onto a four wheel drive
- in the four wheel drive for the thrilling dune-bashing! we enjoyed it so much! we sat at the back so it was more bumpy! most suspenseful part was when the four wheel drive went so fast down a steep sand dune that we thought we gonna go turtle! it was like a rollercoaster ride in a well-padded four wheel drive across the desert landscape! oh, did I mention we were shouting like mad? it was fun over-reacting aloud to every bump and sharp cornering!
- after a 30-minute ride, we arrived at the place where all the desert safari activity will take place – free activities from then onwards!
- the driver reminded us to assemble at this same four wheel drive at 7.30pm to take us back to the mini bus
love it love it love it! and this is just the beginning!
with the photogenic camel
MY FIRST CAMEL RIDE
as soon as we arrived the first thing we spot were the camels.
once there we immediately stayed close to the area, and get ready to hop on any available camel. there were 3 camels held together by a single rope operated by this pak arab. 3 people ride at one go, and the pak arab would lead the camels to walk slowly in a circle, about 2-3 minutes. no extra charges, so you can ride as many times as you want.
however, there was no apparent queue for the camel ride, so people sort off just waited haphazardly around the place where the camel stops; hoping to be the first one on the camels once they come back to the starting point. luckily most people went straight to the quad-biking or climbing the sand dunes so we didn’t need to shove and push to ride camels haha.
on my first camel ride – weeeee!
first putri went on the camel, I took pictures; and then we switched.
it was my first ever camel ride – and it’s funny to think that even my khaleef has been on a camel at dubai bastakiya in 2010, when he was just 5 years old! it was exciting, but I was feeling really nervous as well! hey, the camel is huge!
I was on the camel at the front. I like him. he went down and up gracefully, while the other camels went down with a jerk and thud. gile scary! because as the camel bowed down to sit, the angle is pretty steep and we could fall down if its movement is too jerky and we didn’t hold tight. so be safe, people!
the camel ride? amazing. slow. and gayat! just a short ride in circle, but it was enough to take me back hundreds of years where arab beduoin use camels as transportation across the vast desert. I would definitely do it again!
this is the spot next to the desert safari area for people to golek-golek, take pictures, and sand-boarding too (I would imagine sand boarding is like tobogganing, but on sand!). sadly, what made it NOT authentic were the benches on top. hello? whose bright idea was it to put benches on top of the sand dune? cammon man. duduk je la atas pasir tu! nak duk atas bench pegi la taman bunga!
thinking of quad-biking? RM100 for 20 minutes here, and you can ride it within a compound, or take it round and round the sand dune. man, I’d do it for at least half that price! ok thanks, but no thanks la sheikh, I think I’ll just take a picture sitting on the quad bike if you don’t mind?
FALCON ON MY ARM!
me with mr bad-ass falcon, the national bird of UAE, a symbol of fierce and courage! sampai tersenget-senget tudung pegang falcon on my shoulder! nervous, ok! one scratch of its wolverine-claws, abis la!
ok. this is actually a scam disguised as a tourist attraction. I called it a scam because this dude was standing at the entrance with the bird. since most of the activities here are already paid for under our ticket, I assumed this includes taking picture with the falcon – just like riding the camel.
however, when I showed the slightest interest on the bird, the sheikh immediately placed the blind-folded falcon on my arm – and THEN only announced that it would cost me aed10 for pictures. ooookaaaay.
takpe lah. aku niat nak sedekah je lah.
the bird was adorable – blind-folded of course to tame it – and I can see clearly its sharp claws while it perched on my cautious arms. ah, the falcon. symbol of fierce and courage of the arab world!
shisha place. pretty, but me no likey. aku memang tak teringin lansung nak try shisha ni.
THE STAGE IS SET!
this is the center – where the makan-makan takes place, and the entertainment happening in the middle. we came on a weekday, so it was hardly crowded – very relaxed and calming. the seating area is carpeted, with thick cushions – very comfy and welcoming.
anywhere you sit gives you a great view of the performance as the seating area surrounds the stage. we just picked a nice spot and enjoyed our ‘appetizers’. before buffet table was open, we got a plate of snacks - crispy fried potatoes and something like vadai. sedap makan panas-panas in the cold!
we checked out the buffet prep area. the smell of chicken and meat grilling over charcoal were tantalizing! we asked, and the crew said “7.30pm buffet open, maam!” alrite then!
WANT VIP TREATMENT?
the VIP majlees
the entertainment hasn’t started, food was not ready yet, so we walked around. by this time the weather was already getting COLD!
these huts in the picture above are the ‘VIP majlis’ – which I don’t really get – why do they wanna sit so far from the entertainment? hmm. I think we ‘commoners’ got the better seats! haha.
anyways, we were approached by a staff member, who said we could still get a ‘VIP service’ even if we’re sitting at the normal seating areas. how much? for aed50 per person, a server will bring our food to the table, anything we need, no lining up. hmm, we’ll pass. sanggup lagi beratur daripada bayar extra aed100 for both of us!
ok this, I didn’t know – you can even opt to stay overnight at one of the few ‘deluxe rooms’! wooo~ if I wanna sleep in the desert, I prefer hardcore camping style!
PRETTY HENNA PAINTING
I kinda love henna painting if it’s not too overdone. just on one small spot, or one small trail – simplicity is pretty! even for my wedding, the henna on my hands were really minimal, yet classy!
here at the desert safari, henna painting is free for a small one, and 10aed for a longer one that trails up your arm. haha you know me so well, of course la amik yg free one haha. the lady who drew the henna pattern said she really went into this whole henna business because she’s genuinely interested in drawing, and always want to try new patterns.
when we went home on dubai metro, we took another photo of the completed henna. so pretty. yes, we left the desert safari adventure with fond memories, and these henna paintings!
ENTERTAINMENT : SUFI DANCE, BELLY DANCE & HORSE DANCE
when the first show started, we haven’t taken our food yet – the buffet table was still close.
first up was the ‘sufi dance’ or ‘tanura dance’ from turkey. tak paham aku dance ni. spin spin spin. twirl twirl twirl. syok la tu kot. the only thing I applauded him was being able to not throw up or collapse after all that spinning and extreme twirling!
in fact, whenever he stopped to invite someone from the crowd to join him, he appeared to walk straight, without the slightest indication of being disoriented. memang pro!
well we enjoyed the loud arabic music and twirly dance. especially when the lights suddenly went out – his skirt actually lights up, while still spinning! and it looked like UFO! ...and he even lifted his ‘skirt’ up his head, and yes - still spinning. lagi la mcm UFO!
next – most-awaited by both male n female – the seductive belly-dancing! I cannot imagine how this ultra sensual dance could ever originate from a conservative middle eastern world. it’s as sexy as the tango. or salsa. aku pun terbeliak-beliak tengok, inikan pulak mamat-mamat dalam crowd ni kan. sure menyesal bawak bini huhu.
BUFFET TABLE OPEN – MAKAN TIME!
the buffet area, set in a tent
after the belly dancing, there was an announcement that the buffet table is open.
we were the first in line! haha, typical malaysian! haha. tak malaysian la kalau lambat beratur nak amik makanan buffet kan kan kan. everything was so delicious, nicely presented and freshly prepared.
sadly can’t take any pictures because we were the first in line – mengamuk org belakang kang kalo stop-stop amik gamba!
the food was nicely displayed; hot and fresh. fried rice, steamed rice. roti arab, fresh crispy veggies and humus. delicious bbq chicken and tender meat on skewers. mee goreng pun ade. simple dishes but most importantly tasty and HOT!
the meat on skewers were delicious, mostly because they were so tender, well-marinated, and HOT! so nice to be enjoyed during this COLD weather! fresh fruits are also available, as well as my favorite bread pudding. simple, yet satisfying!
while we eat, the entertainment continued. we're then entertained by this interestingly creepy 'horse dance'. it’s called ‘horse dance’ but it’s not like our beautifully crafty kuda kepang dance. it’s more to chinese lion dance – but with horses. and even so, chinese lion dance is vibrant and fast-paced, but this horse dance is basically men dressed in horse costume, wobbling on the stage with the beat.
the 'horse' mostly just walked around slowly, while stopping next to the crowd every now and then, and sit down like a horse.
our empty long table. right after the horse dance, it's time to leave – 8pm. our driver actually looked for us, recognized us by face and reminded us to look for him outside. sgt efisyen!
well, goodbye desert safari! it’s been a blast!
* * *
the 1-hour drive back to dubai town felt short. it was already dark. putri was nodding off beside me. the bright lights of the city reminded me that I’m back to civilization after that wonderful time in the desert with a good friend. no kids to shout after. no husband to remind me that I’m over 30 and 8 years married.
desert safari with put is one of the best getaways a mother can have, especially a stay-at-home mom like me. mr. khairul takes me to the best makan places to help me unwind –and I appreciate that so much because he knows what I like – but a night out with a gal pal – now that’s something else.
we were giggling schoolgirls gossiping. we were ladies without a care in the world. doctorate thesis and sink full of dirty dishes were far from our minds.
just us, in the moment. good friends enjoying great times.