After a leisurely breakfast/brunch earlier in the day at Jones the grocer, Tina and I decided on the Desert Safari which was on my to do list at Dubai. Plans were made for us to be picked up close to her apartment block and we received a call from the Safari organizers saying that a black land cruiser was waiting for us near a specific landmark. It was all pretty straightforward.
The driver took one look at us and asked “Indian?”, soon he was jabbering away in Hindi telling us about his life in Dubai, his ancestors in Rajasthan and his love for “Dard bhare naghme” (sad bollywood songs). He then proceeded to play those for us all in the name of solidarity 🙂 . We were told that other people were joining us and after a couple of false stops at different hotels, we finally located the three students from Kazakhstan who formed the rest of our group. After this everything else went smoothly. The drive out to the desert took us a little over an hour and soon our vehicle was pulling into a cluster of 4×4 vehicles.
Our driver then explained that we had to shift into another vehicle as the cruiser we arrived in, could not take the dune bashing – an activity of the evening. We took this chance to jump out of the vehicle and stretch our legs before we got transferred into one of the 4×4’s. The driver of the new vehicle advised us to fasten our seatbelts as we started barreling through the desert and the dunes. It is more dangerous than it looks. The winds can cause the dunes to shift all the time and you never know what you find on the other side of a dune! Our heroic driver took us on an exhilarating ride, bumping and bashing over the dunes, twisting over peaks and plunging down steep slopes, and at certain points on the brink of tottering over! This went on for sometime and we were then driven into an unmarked, secluded section of the plain desert along with the other 4x4s for the sunset.
I was astounded by the panoramic view of the desert and it felt like being on the moon. The desert spanned as far as the eyes could see and the warm hues of the sand contrasted with the azure skies only broken by wispy white clouds. And in between that we could see the slowly setting sun, throwing the skies into hues of reds and oranges. It was quite a spectacular sight!
While we were basking in the glory of the Arabian desert, we saw a group of students (their twangs sounded American) take out their snowboards and started to jet down the dunes. Even though the results were not what they were expecting, we could see the fun they were having 🙂
As darkness descended, we quietly got into the 4×4, to be taken to the campsite set up in the middle of the desert – A kind of a squarish structure made out of stalls with a stage in the centre. Carpets covered the ground and over that the stage was surrounded by low tables and large cushions where the guests could sit down and watch the rest of the program. Our welcome drink was Arabian coffee and sticky dates. We headed towards an empty table closest to the stage and parked there. Outside the campsite we saw people going on camel rides and a few quad bikes zipping all over the place. They was still a little more time for the show to start, the rest of our troupe barring Tina and me went to try out the sheesha and henna stalls, while we made our way to one of the souvenir stores that were within the campsite. I picked out two shiny, belly dancing headgears with lots of trinkets for my nieces in pink and purple their favorite colors. There was also an open bar from were people helped themselves to the alcohol of their choice with the shawarma rolls that were available.
By this time, the MC announced that the show would start and for people to settle down, You could hear the smattering of voices die down and the slow build of the music start up. A masked person in skirts came on stage and started spinning like a dervish. He was in layers and while spinning he managed to get down to a pair of skirts which were lighted and soon the lights were dimmed to showcase his spinning feats. He was impressive and the music was entrancing. He invited a few unsuspecting guests and we also saw a few over- enthusiastic or drunk ones, try to emulate the spinning gentleman to much hilarity and laughter. It was pretty entertaining.
We started to get hungry and saw it was time for an eclectic buffet dinner. Two members from our table got plates of food for all of us, which was nice 🙂 they had both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. No complaints there.
And finally, the highlight of the show – the belly dancing. The belly dancing artiste arrived on the stage to the beats of peppy Arabian music. She was a vision in gold and started off with staccato movements to punctuate the accents of the music with hip drops and twists, followed the by fluid, sinuous movements in a graceful and rhythmic manner. She had great abdominal muscle control. Wee saw her carry out the figure of eight and infinity loops with the undulations of hips and abdomen. The movements were complex, but she made it look so easy! Soon the music reached a crescendo and she began a series of small, fast continuous movements like the shimmies , turns and spins. She also added a few backbends and head tosses to the mix. She had to move through the huge stage to engage with the audiences on all four sides; that was quite a feat by itself and she did it so effortlessly. Tina and I were screaming and whistling with the rest of the people applauding her. She was amazingly good!
Soon after this scintillating performance, it was time for us to head back. We saw our driver waving out to us to drive us back and we slowly made our way towards him.
Spending around 5-6 hours out in the open with strangers from all across the globe, who you bonded with because of one unique experience at the desert was really incredible.