We couldn’t leave Dubai without experiencing the Arabian Desert. And with limited time available, we chose a tour with GoDubai on the night that our flight was leaving for Perth – that’s cutting it fine.
After doing research online, booking the tour over the phone was a pretty straightforward process (US$62 per adult and US$52 per child). But when it came time for the scheduled pick-up, we waited in the hotel lobby… and waited… and waited. Finally we received a call from the tour company who said the driver had been waiting for us for 15 minutes and we should go outside to meet him. We checked outside and around the hotel, but no driver. After some dialogue back and forth, it turned out the driver was at the wrong hotel. After this first mishap, the rest of the tour ran much smoother.
The drive out into the desert didn’t take too long, and before we knew it our 4x4 was pulling off the highway into an unmarked section of sand dunes. It seemed a little strange, and our driver only provided minimal directions on what was going on, but we went with the flow.
The driver met with other a couple dozen other 4x4s at this secluded secret desert location. We took the chance to jump out of the car and stretch our legs, taking in the amazing desolate panoramic view. It felt like being on the moon. There was desert as far as the eye could see. The warm hues in the sand contrasted with the bright azure tones of the sky broken by wispy white clouds. It was quite a spectacular sight.
The sun was also getting low on the horizon setting up what would be an eye-poppingly beautiful desert sunset like no other.
Once everyone was accounted for, the 4x4 drove into the seemingly-uninhabited desert in single formation. Caius wanted to get front-row seats so he sat on my lap at the front of the car. Strapped in, he was ready for what I could only describe as a desert roller coaster. There were ups, downs and even sideways slides traversing the towering dunes. All of this was against a bright amber sky that melted into golden vanilla. A spectacular visual ride, with commentary by Caius along the way. Take a look:
The cars started to slow down and congregated around a small valley surrounded by tunes. From this vantage point, we faced West and soaked up the impressive sunset.
The kids found more entertainment in jumping and sliding around the steep dunes and playing with the sand. Erin got into the mood by throwing herself down the hill.
By now our shoes (and ears) were full of sand, so we hopped back into the car with rumbling tummies for our next destination – dinner! This was only another short minute drive away.
We grabbed some prime seats near the main stage and the kids took no time waiting to make a bee-line straight for the free camel ride. They really enjoyed that, even though it was over after just 1 short minute.
There were free soft drinks available and pre-dinner snacks like mini-shwarma wraps available at the main food tent. Other tents offered free henna tattoos and souvenirs for sale. Erin couldn’t resist a tattoo, but shortly after Caius managed to tumble onto Erin’s inked arm and smudged it into oblivion.
At the MC’s request we grabbed our seats in anticipation for the first show. A local spinning gentleman, dressed in an array of brightly coloured clothing that would make a rainbow look drab. His physical feats were impressive and rhythmic Arabic music slightly entrancing. Next, he invited a few unsuspecting guests to try his dance, complete with spinning cloak. The results were humorous.
Mia couldn’t resist herself and volunteered to be his dance partner (by that, I mean she ran into the middle of the stage and just joined in) which he gladly accepted. He spun Mia round and round which resulted in a hilarious attempt of her walking back to us in a straight line. She looked more like a drunken child swaying in the wind struggling to keep balance.
Fully entertained, the next portion of the night was filled with culinary delights and dinner was served. It was a line-up buffet formation with choices of many local dishes from kebabs, roasted chicken, beans, rice and salads as well as a couple more international dishes like spaghetti with meatballs.
At this point, I realised my phone was no longer in my pocket. That wasn’t good news. It could have fallen out at the pitstop we made to watch the sunset, or even earlier. I was hoping it had fallen out of my pocket in the car with the topsy-turvy driving, but since the car was locked we couldn’t find out until the end of the night.
Of course any Arabian dinner and show could not be complete without a belly dancer. After dinner a talented dancer graced the stage with a series of dances to entrancing music. After she impressed the diners (I’m sure the men were more impressed) with her flexibility, coordination and stomach muscle control, the MC announced that due to restrictions by the tourism authority, they weren’t allowed to permit other adults dancing with her, however they couldn’t stop children.
Naturally, Mia could not resist and wowed the audience with her incredible dancing skills. Caius made a brief appearance but got a little shy and made a dash for the sidelines. Mia’s comment to Erin afterwards was “Mummy, I can’t dance like her because I don’t have any boobies!”. So cute!
The night wrapped up and we were all dog-tired so we retreated quickly to the car to meet our driver. To our relief I found my phone under the car seat and the reunited gadget received a special cuddle. The ride home was a blur between snoozing and watching the blurring highway lights. I did manage to wake up to catch a glimpse of the unmissable Burj Kahlifa, standing out of the cityscape, dwarfing the towers around it. The coming weekend also heralded the UAE’s National Day which celebrated the founding of the country 42 years ago. We spotted locals parked along the highway having a BBQ of sorts – sitting around campfires in the desert and letting off fireworks. What a fun and unique way to get into the swing of the long weekend, Dubai-style, and a fitting way to finish up our whirlwind week in one of the most incredible cities in the world.