I’ve been feeling uneasy about my travel articles lately. I keep asking myself – why should you, the reader, have any interest in what I have to say? As far as this post goes, I’m going to treat you to views of Dubai city, wrapped in thick clouds of morning fog. I’ll try to bring to life the wonder and excitement that courses through you during a desert safari. And I want to talk to you about why I loved Old Dubai and its fort-turned-museum so much. If that sounds interesting, please read on. Else, the mini-guide at the end of this post should help plan your trip to Dubai. I’m assuming that’s the reason you’re here. If not, please leave a comment and tell me what brought you to this article!
I was in Dubai with friends to bring in 2017. 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, I knew I was in for a rare treat in the morning. I made sure I hit the sack at a decent time on my first day in Dubai. At 7 AM the next morning, my friend and I 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. I’d never witnessed anything like it. Fog is something I 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.
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 I might have captured, had the fog not eventually relented. Even so, there’s an ethereal glow to all my pictures of the Burj. And I’m not complaining.
I love museums and I knew 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, I realised this was a Dubai I could learn to love. The sandstone streets of Old Dubai greeted my eye, lined with beautiful buildings sporting latticed walls. It was 10:30 AM in the morning and I was happy as only a traveller who has chanced upon a dear destination can be. It was a short walk to the museum and on the way, I spotted quaint grocery stores fragrant with the smell of Arabic coffee and dates.
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.
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 my travels, I’ve romanced mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches galore. But never had I confronted the mystical beauty of the desert until Dubai. All my childhood memories of the Arabian Nights, ephemeral oases and genies swam before my eyes as I watched a herd of camels move leisurely in the distance.
But this was when I was standing on my own two feet. Just moments ago, I was being hurtled in all directions in a Toyota Land Cruiser, courtesy my 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.
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. I gave it a miss in favour of watching a marvellous sunset.
Our desert safari concluded with a huge live entertainment and buffet dinner set-up, where I 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 me was the excellently flavoured shisha and the chance to dress up like an Arabian 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.
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