If there was one thing I wanted to do during my recent short trip to Dubai, it was a desert safari. I had never been to the desert but I’d heard so much about it from friends and thought it would be a wonderful memory to take back home. I did a little research online and found that there are several companies who have desert safari services. They all offer the same 5-6 hour package which includes hotel pick up, dune bashing, camel riding, barbecue dinner at a Bedouin camp with live entertainment from a belly dancer, shisha, henna tattoo, and hotel drop off. The only thing that differs between each company is the price which ranges from 40-80 USD per person. Seeing as though the packages were the same we decided not to pay too much and booked with the Go Dubai company for 57 USD per person. I received a confirmation e-mail right away and a phone call the next day to re-confirm the booking which reassured me that I had chosen a good company. I was slightly worried that the quality of the experience would differ because other companies had a higher price tag, but boy was I wrong!
We were picked up from the hotel as planned and set out to the desert which is a 45 minute drive from the city. The 4-wheel SUV fits six so my friend and I shared it with a family of four along with the guide who was super friendly and funny. At the entrance to the desert were some shops and cafes where we stopped to use the rest room. As we were walking back to the car we were instantly swarmed by locals who started wrapping traditional head scarfs on our heads. I naively thought this was part of the whole tour package until one of the men pointed to the cashier. My friend and I decided to keep the head scarfs as we thought they’d make for good photos, but she bargained with the salesman to give us a good price (Tip: many salespeople rip off tourists at the desert but they will surely lower the price if you bargain.)
With our head scarfs on we departed for the dunes. For about 30 minutes we drove up and down enormous dunes as the car skidded and drifted. It was such an adrenaline rush and got a bit scary at times but our guide assured us that he’s been doing this every day for 7 years so we knew we were in good hands. We stopped at a nice spot and got out of the car to take photos. Our guide took some lovely pictures of us jumping in the air and kicking the sand(which was as smooth as running water). Looking out into the distance, we were rewarded with an incredible sight! Endless rows of sand dunes formed over hundreds of years. The weather was warm and the sunshine felt so nice on my skin, although I recommend taking a jacket because at night it gets a bit chilly.
After dune bashing, we headed to the Bedouin camp site which is a further 20 minute drive away. The site is shared with other safari companies but we were the first group to get there. We spotted three camels on a hill just outside of the camp entrance and hopped on them for a ride. Camels are super tall, I had no idea! And they’re really friendly animals. By the time the other groups arrived it was dark and I was so grateful to our guide for getting us there early because we took some amazing sunset shots (Tip: there’s a professional photographer that takes photos of you while on the camels however you are charged extra for these. I suggest you give your cell phone to the guide to take some photos so that you won’t have to pay any unnecessary additional costs.)
Next, we headed inside the camp site where we were greeted with a date and cup of Arabic coffee. The camp site itself looks like something out of the Disney film Aladdin. Tents, carpets, candles, and even a camp fire were set up, it all looked so charming. Once everyone had arrived, the primary entertainment act came on stage. A male dancer dressed in traditional clothing spun around non-stop for what must have been 20 minutes, all while throwing things in the air and changing outfits. I was really impressed. After the show they opened the barbecue buffet, by then it was about 7pm and I was getting hungry. I thought the food was average, mainly because I’m Middle Eastern myself so I’ve had better but from what I could tell the other tourists seemed to like it. There was hummus and tabbouli, and a large plate of rice with several hot stews to choose from. There was also a stand giving out shawarma and falafel. Following dinner, a belly dancer came out and danced for 20 minutes. Everyone was clapping and dancing along to the Arabic beats, it was a fun way to the end the night. We left right after the belly dancing and were back at the hotel around 9pm.
Verdict: An authentic once in a lifetime Arabian experience that is not to be missed when visiting Dubai.
Have you been on a desert safari? How was your experience?