First Visit to Dubai: Winter Fog, Al Fahidi Fort & Desert Safari

Travelling to Dubai for the first time? Find out what you shouldn’t miss in this travel blog that’s partial to winter fog, Dubai’s Old Town and Al Fahidi Fort, and of course, the mystical Arabian desert safari.

Winter Fog in Dubai

Fog at Crowne Plaza Dubai

W were in Dubai with friends to bring in the New Year. The thick fog delayed our flight by over five hours, leaving us tired, sleepy and cranky when we arrived into the golden metropolis. But the silver lining to this was, we knew we were in for a rare treat in the morning.

We made sure we hit the sack at a decent time on our first day in Dubai. At 7 AM the next morning, we descended the stairs of Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road in our pyjamas, camera and yawns in tow. But all our drowsiness vanished once we found ourselves in the nippy outdoors. The temperature was lovely – around 20 degree celsius. And the metro rail in the distance seemed to disappear into nothingness – so dense was the fog!

But the biggest jolt we received was when we looked up – the top of our hotel and all the neighbouring buildings were shrouded in dreamy white fog. We’d never witnessed anything like it. Fog is something we associate with mountains and hill-stations – not bustling cities like Dubai.

Go to Dubai in the peak of winter for the blankets of fog and the dipping thermometer.

Fog in Dubai

The fog was present well until mid-morning. When we reached Open Beach at Jumeirah at around 11am, the top of Burj Al Arab had been claimed by the fog. And that’s the only picture we might have captured, had the fog not eventually relented. Even so, there’s an ethereal glow to all our pictures of the Burj. And we’re not complaining.

Burj Al Arab at Open Beach, Dubai

Al Fahidi Fort in Dubai’s Old Town

We love museums and we knew we had to go to Dubai Museum, housed within the 18th century Al Fahidi Fort and the oldest structure in the entire city. The moment we exited Al Fahidi metro station, we realised this was a Dubai we could learn to love.

The sandstone streets of Old Dubai greeted our eyes, lined with beautiful buildings sporting latticed walls. It was 10:30 AM in the morning and we were happy as only travellers who have chanced upon a dear destination can be.

It was a short walk to the museum and on the way, we spotted quaint grocery stores fragrant with the smell of Arabic coffee and dates.

Dhow outside Dubai Museum
This mahogany dhow stood tall outside the museum
Artifacts at Dubai Museum
While inside, we peeked into the life of the Bedouins.

Constructed from sea rocks and gypsum, the fort was originally built to defend Dubai and serve as a residence for the ruler. Restoration work on the fort was completed by 1994.

Dubai Museum
At the museum, lifelike men
Dubai Museum
and winged creatures
Dubai Museum
plunged us into the past.

Dubai Desert Safari

You don’t realise just how unimaginably vast and magnificent the desert is, until you’re at its very core, your feet upon those countless grains of sand. In our travels, we’ve romanced mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches galore. But never have we confronted the mystical beauty of the desert until Dubai.

All our childhood memories of the Arabian Nights, ephemeral oases and genies swam before our eyes as we watched a herd of camels move leisurely in the distance.

Camels in the desert during desert safari at Dubai

But this was when we were standing on our own two feet. Just moments ago, we were being hurtled in all directions in a Toyota Land Cruiser, courtesy our very first desert safari. If you think roller coasters are scary, wait till you experience a desert safari. As the vehicle navigates the slopes and dunes of the desert, you’ll find the sky beneath you and the sands above you.

Because direction and gravity are rendered meaningless in the course of dune bashing.

Quad biking area at desert safari, Dubai

The first stop we made was simply to drink in the golden glory of the desert and of course, click a few pictures. The second was to try our hands at quad biking. These are four wheeled vehicles that anyone (even children) can ride, on a single or double seater basis, to get a first-hand feeling of navigating the desert. But be warned, it can be quite expensive. We gave it a miss in favour of watching a marvellous sunset.

Desert safari in Dubai

Our desert safari concluded with a huge live entertainment and buffet dinner set-up, where we saw some couples enjoying camel rides in the last of the daylight. For a fee, you could also get yourself clicked with an eagle on your shoulder.

The belly dancing was all right, as was the Egyptian dance and fire show but the highlight of the evening for us was the excellently flavoured shisha and the chance to dress up like an Arabian man and woman.

Do expect to be wedged between hundreds of people when you end up at the desert barbeque dinner but then you can’t really leave Dubai without witnessing a belly dance in the midst of the desert.

Shisha or hookah at desert safari in Dubai

We’ve also got a Dubai mini-guide, an easy to use infographic, and dope on more attractions like Jumeirah Beach, Dubai souks, Dubai Mall, and the dhow cruise in this 4-day Dubai travel guide.

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