Desert diary The Arabian experience

Desert diary The Arabian experience   | Photo Credit: Photos: V. D. Umashanker

Dubai Sudha Umashanker gets an adrenalin high after a desert safari where she rides steep inclines and precipitous edges

As we speed along one of Dubai’s most arterial roads — the Sheik Zayed Road — named after the visionary leader who literally transformed the country, the cityscape changes rapidly — from swank , eclectic, high-rise buildings to the desert that Dubai once was. The contrast is stark.

My husband and I have two Australians for company. Approaching the desert trail, our chauffeur Majid an Emirati who sports an American accent queries “Ready to go guys?”

And we brace ourselves for the desert safari, unmindful of the fact that a few tourists on the Dhow cruise along the Dubai creek had told us the previous night that it was a trifle “scary”.

Making sure once again that our seat belts are fastened, we place ourselves in Majid’s hands for what can only be described as a jolly, good ride in the desert in a Toyota Landcruiser.

As he revs and steps on the accelerator, our vehicle dashes across the desert with practiced ease.

Negotiating steep inclines, surprise hairpin bends, making sharp, angular turns, driving excitingly close to a precipitous edge flanked on the other side by a deep ravine and hurtling down the dunes, it is adventure with a capital A.

Majid makes sure the vehicle obeys him as he charts out a course across, over and around the undulating expanse, often at breakneck speed. “Just think of it as a little turbulence on an aircraft,” suggests our Australian companion as I alternately gasp and sigh in excitement and awe.

All action

The tyres of the car leave behind patterns of their own on the fine red sand as Majid treats us to more dune bashing. At one stage, a fine layer of sand settles on the windshield, almost blinding the view. It is a scene straight out of an action movie. Due credit must go to the vehicle that magnificently copes with all the challenges thrown at it.

Our driver soon takes us on another equally action-packed drive to a secluded spot where a group of camels is stationed.

Giving us a few minutes to take in the breathtaking view (the sand dunes are a sight to behold) and take a quick photo, Majid charges toward another precipitous ledge.

Alight from the car on the wrong side, and it could be a free fall. There are other dune buggies doing the desert trail and having a whale of a time.

After an hour or so of more adventure, we climb down the dune. After which, it’s along drive to the camp site where excitement of another kind is in store.

There are tents and stalls all over the place. It is a magical Arabian night.

Souvenirs of every kind, from a replica of the Burj Al Arab hotel, costume jewellery and lovely waist-pieces with gold discs worn by Arabian dancers to plenty of branded luggage and handbags are on sale. It gets quite chilly and every one runs for cover under the tents.

Welcome drinks and hot vadas and bhajjis soon do the rounds.

As the caterer from Delhi gets ready to set up the buffet, Larissa the ballet dancer from Russia who came to Dubai on a three-month contract and stayed on, regales us with an awesome belly dance on a specially-constructed platform.

The audience, a mix of various nationalities, seated on the sand with bolsters and cushions to lean on, watches in rapture. The lip-smacking food is served piping hot and is a perfect way to round off the unforgettable Arabian experience.

Cameras click non-stop, for everyone wants to capture these moments. Its rather late in the night and Larissa hitches a ride in our car till the base.

Majid takes over the car controls — after the dune bashing, the city roads are a tame proposition for him.

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