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Old 23 Feb 12, 03:19 PM  
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Celebrating My 40th In Dubai Trip Report - Day 4

Wednesday 27th April – Day 4:
We did come close to trying the Club Lounge breakfast this morning, but then decided just to go back to Sloane’s again! We sure loved this restaurant and its breakfast buffet, apart from the chicken sausages!

We had a Desert Safari planned for this afternoon / evening. So that meant we were free to laze about by the pool in the morning ... for a change! So we spent our usual morning slowly baking by the pool! We did change it up slightly today though by going to the pool first thing for a while and then breaking off for breakfast, before returning poolside.

Ladies form an orderly queue!

I had read lots of good and bad stories about the various Desert Safaris companies and the one that seemed highly recommended was Arabian Adventures, as they had their own desert camp rather than a communual one. The hotel also suggested this one when asking about Desert Safari’s. But Arabian Adventures did not have a coupon in the Entertainer book, so I could not get a deal on it and at 350AED (about £60) each, I was quite keen to get a deal!

So, flying in the face of opinion I decided to try North Tours, to be fair to them they had some good reviews on TA but also a couple of not so good ones, but generally they were an unknown quantity as there wasn't a lot of information about them. But they had a BOGOF voucher in the Entertainer and were also only 295AED (£50), so that won the day for me. I was prepared to give it a go!

When I booked the safari, they said they would ring on the day to confirm the booking and pick up times, etc. I missed this call (must of been in the pool) and tried to ring the number back but my phone / SIM card would not let me connect. So I decided to go up to the room and do it. Well after accidentally ringing the fire station and then explaining that no I did not need any fire type help , and trying various different combinations of the number, I finally managed to get through! Booking confirmed and pick up time sorted.
From what I gather, the company contract out the tours to various drivers who are using their own vehicles. So they act as a booking agent. I sort of learned this during the day and our guide was quite open about the practise.

So at 3.00PM we were collected by Tarik in his huge 4X4. From there, we went and collected some other people until our party of 6 was complete. There was us, a group of 3 girls from Manchester (one of whom worked in Dubai) and a mad older Brazilian lady, that did not really speak English! I have to say Tarik was brilliant and made the whole experience! He set the tone, when he collected us and was chatting to us and said ‘ first time in the desert?’, we replied ‘yes’ and he chuckled and said ‘mine too!’. And when he went to collect the Brazilian lady, he drew up and she got in and he said to her ‘which way to the beach?’.

After all parties were collected, we made our way out of Dubai towards the Desert. Tarik kept pointing out various things and explaining them and also filled us in about the culture of Dubai, how it had expanded so rapidly in the last few years and also about the UAE royal family (he had a photo of the crown prince on his dashboard!).

We saw the proposed area for Universal Studios Dubailand, which was basically a huge area of wasteland, with the Universal Archway at the front of it – that was a bit strange to say the least!

After about an hour we stopped for a break, which involved stopping in this right tourist trap of a place. They did dune buggy rides and had a shop there, the shop sold all manner of overpriced items and whilst in there I managed to get roped into to trying an Arab head-dress on! I did politely decline the offer to purchase it and got a couple of drinks and moved on.

There were also some ‘local’ animals there to look at, take pictures of – which frankly was quite disturbing to see. There was a bloke with a giant sort of eagle on his arm. There was a baby camel in a small enclosure and then worst of all, was what looked like a baboon in a tiny derelict cage. And I could see no food or water available, in fact when someone approached who had a drink with them – the monkey obviously recognised this type of drink and went nuts for it – holding his hand out from underneath the bars and screeching quite loudly. This wasn’t very nice to witness and we were both glad to leave this place and make our way into the Desert. I know Dubai has a different culture and all that, but surely there are some rules against keeping animals in that manner. :angry:

Trying on the local head-dress.

Anyway, after we left here we pulled off the main road within a couple of minutes, Tarik stopped and let down his tyres and then the dune bashing started. This was an amazing experience and very fun. Tarik was a very skilled driver and he seemed to take us higher and further than the other drivers. At the stop 30 – 40 vehicles had gathered and we made our way from this point in convoy, with drivers and cars from all different companies. At this point there were loads of 4X4’s zig-zagging across the desert, they must have some sort of route planned because I really don’t know how they don’t crash into one another. After about 30 minutes of swooping up and down various dunes, the grand finale came into view – this was an absolutely huge dune that could more accurately be described as a large hill / small mountain! Well Tarik gunned it at this point and we went past all of the other vehicles and just made it to the top and over! Absolutely amazing! One of his friends also followed and Tarik took quite delight when he managed to get stuck and had to be helped out!

Tarik deflating the tyres, before the fun began!

We then all pulled over in the middle of the Desert to watch the setting sun and to also let the vehicles cool down – as most of the drivers had opened the bonnets on their vehicles.

The sun setting in the desert.

Within 10 minutes we were on our way again and we shortly arrived at the Desert camp. Just outside of the camp you could have a camel ride if you wanted – umm no thanks Camels scare me! And inside there were a few souvenir / gift shops, a bar (soft drinks were free but alcoholic drinks weren’t – about £5 for a small can of cheap lager! ), the bar-b-q area, ladies doing Henna tattoos and a smoking area (for hookah – another no thanks!). In the middle of the camp was a stage area (for the entertainment) and all around that were low tables and cushions – with each tables marked out for one of the vehicles.

On arrival you were given a sample of Arabic Tea, another thing I have learned to avoid alongside chicken sausages, it was awful!

Drinking the Arabic tea, never again!

We had a mill about the camp, purchased some more cheap souvenirs and made the sand art guy a rich man - Maria fell in love with his work and he ended up purchasing about 6 pieces! We decided against any henna tattoos or dodgy tobacco smoking, so grabbed a drink (soft) and went and sat down to watch the last of the sun disappear down in to the dunes. It was an amazing sight and something I will remember for a long time. It was now time for food and we went and collected some bar-b-q goodies and the food was really good. Quite surprising really, when you think it was being mass produced and we were in the middle of the desert. After dinner the entertainment began and this was some local dancers and then a belly dancer – who Tarik had told us, was actually from Russia!

The evening soon went and afterwards we made our way back to our Vehicle. We had more Tarik shenigans on the way back as he shot off into the pitch black desert in the opposite direction of the other vehicles and pronounced it a ‘short cut’! After several minutes of bouncing around in a pitch black desert we arrived at a road at the back of some houses, we drove around the corner and magically rejoined the main road! We then pulled into a small group of shops, where Tarik had his tyres re-inflated and the shop keepers had the chance to try and sell us some of their tourist wares – i.e. more cheap souvenirs. The ‘short-cut’ was obviously correct, as we were the first vehicle there.

On the way back to Dubai, we all had a very broken English conversation with the Brazilian woman, who Tarik had named ‘Mama’. I think Mama was trying to set her son (who was working in Dubai) up with the English girl (who also worked in Dubai). This entertaining conversation had lots of hand actions alongside the speech parts, but most of it seemed lost in translation. But one word Mama did understand was ‘facebook’, as when it was mentioned a big smile came over her face and she shouted out ‘facebooky! ’ – very, very entertaining.

Thankfully the rest of our journey was carried out on proper roads and an hour later we were back in Dubai and then being dropped off at our hotel, where we went straight back to our room for a little nightcap.

The Desert Safari was undoubtedly the highlight of our Dubai trip and it is something you must do if you ever go out there. I think our trip and memories were aided by our guide Tarik, as he was an absolute star and made the whole day very interesting and incredibly funny. Oh and Maria said he was really hot too!
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Old 23 Feb 12, 10:38 PM  
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Sounds like you had a great day on the safari!
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Old 2 Mar 12, 12:16 PM  
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We have been to Dubai 5 times now and never done a dessert safari! Its on the list of to-do's for next time.
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Old 2 Mar 12, 12:16 PM  
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