I've been besieged by really crummy internet everywhere. Fortunately, here in Abu Dhabi I have finagled my way into a 5 star hotel (with a bargain -basement discount) with excellent internet.
So, with no further ado:
A white Land Cruiser with "Hormuz" emblazened on the side picks me up. Inside, I meet a lovely American family of 3, Joe and his 2 daughters Paige and Kadria. They are incidentally, ethnically Indian, and are on a 12-hour layover on the way back home from the girls' first visit to India.
We head out to the desert, where we stop at a pretty seedy little shop selling snacks and tourist stuff. I am filled with dread...is this going to suck? Are they going to aggressively try to sell us a bunch of crap for the next 3 hours? No! 5 more white Hormuz (the tour company) Land Cruisers sidle up to ours, and the drivers begin to take air out of the tires. This is for the "dune bashing."
Did I mention that it is about a million (honestly~about 115) degrees here? It is. And it is decidedly NOT a "dry heat" if you consider the 80+ percent humididy. We are all incredibly relived to return to the air conditioned SUVs. Then, we head out into the desert. This is the desert of my childhood desert dreams!!
Except that, even with the naivety and limitless imagination of a child, I could not have imagined it as wondrous or vast as it really is. It was simply amazing, but before I could fully lose myself in a rhapsody of desert musing, our vehicle made a sharp turn, and acceleratated aggressively, and before I knew it we were literally experiencing a dune rollercoaster. Here are a few images:
I would be a liar if I told you I ever imagined that driving up and down sand dunes could be so phenomenally thrilling. But oh, it was, and is. Finally, the caravan came to a halt, good news for me, because I was beginning to get a little motion sickness.
We all stepped out into the searing heat, and our hosts produced a number of snowboards. Yes, snowboards, for sandboarding. Images follow here:
The trip down was a lot more fun than the trek up! These are my sweet new friends:
Then, we packed it in, watched the sun set from the acme of another dune, and headed to a "Bedouin Village" where I got to ride a camel and hold a falcon!!
Then, we got henna designs, smoked a shisha pipe (that's not drugs, in case you were wondering!!) and ate a Middle Eastern feast while watching a belly dancer.
All in all, this was a major highlight. It was in fact so awesome that I went again a few days later with my friend Jereme, a landscape architecture student and fellow NWF fellow who is in Dubai doing an internship. More on him later.
I've done a full 180! As of today I have seen and done much more than the desert safari, and I am beginning to really like the place quite a bit. Surprise, surprise...
Next Post, Al Ain and the livestock market.