Continuing on my quest to try new things, I agreed to go on a desert safari on February 1st. I didn’t even ask very many questions beforehand. In fact, the woman who helped us organize it was able to answer my one question in seconds.
Tori: I don’t know if I should sign up for the overnight trip or just the evening trip.
Liza: Do you like camping?
Liza: Okay then just do the evening trip.
Excellent. So off we went for an evening trip to the Al Khatim desert. Naif (our driver and part owner of the tour company) picked us (Christine, Rick, Kassandra, and me) up from my apartment and drove us about an hour away to the dune bashing location. Here we joined up with lots of other people (strangers). While the drivers let some air out of their tires (this is needed so you don’t get trapped in the sand), we got to walk around the dunes a little.
This is when I knew that Kassandra was going to enjoy this outing. Sometimes it is difficult to convince Kassandra that she wants to try new adventures, but once we go out to the desert, she turned and with a big smile said to me, “You won’t have to drag me to do this again. This is fun!”
We did a little dune bashing and then took a short break for more pictures. Kassandra and Christine tried to climb up the sand dune, which is harder than it looks.
Imagine going on a roller coaster but not being attached to any tracks. This is the best description I can think of to explain how it feels to go dune bashing. The drivers intentionally drive crazy, drifting up and down the dunes. This video is just from youtube and isn’t ours, but it can give you an idea of our experience.
Kass and I found this to be very fun. Christine and Rick not so much, and the woman riding in the seat behind especially didn’t seem to enjoy it. At one point her boyfriend said, “Can you please drive a little slower?” to which the woman said, “No, drive faster. I just want it over with.” When we stopped, she didn’t even wait to for Naif to open the seat for her. She crawled over our seats to get out and started puking right away.
After the dune bashing, we arrived at the Al Khatim desert camp site. First we got to see the camels. The baby had just been born earlier in the day. Later on we would hear the story of how the new baby would be a gift for Sultan’s (the other owner) son, and that the camel would be fed honey and bread to strengthen it for racing. This is a picture of Naif checking on the baby.
Then we moved inside the camp area. There were many different things to do. Kassandra and I got henna on our hands. The henna has to dry for awhile and then the dark brown comes off and it leaves an lighter brown design which will last a week or two. It actually burns a little bit as it is drying, which surprised me some and made me rethink Christine’s warning about allergic reactions to the dye.
Then we ate dinner consisting of fairly traditional food around here; chicken, rice, french fries, salad and bread. After dinner, there was belly dancer. She encouraged everyone to get up on the stage and dance. Then after a few songs, she went away, but the tourists continued to dance. The was little girl in the pink shirt was really rocking the gangnam style song.
It’s funny how just after a short time here, I am already judging how other people dress. For instance, the lady in the picture wearing the short white shorts and purple shirt, way too risque for Al Ain. Tourist! Don’t come here thinking you should wear that.
At the end of the night, everyone except for our group left. I think we had some wasta going on. Sultan arranged for his brother to come and pick us up to take us back to Al Ain, so while we were waiting, we continued to have more fun. Kassandra got to ride the quads by herself, and the camp owners built us a fire. We sat around the fire and talked and laughed (camel oil? cat oil? what?) while Sultan prepared another dinner for my friends that were staying over night (turns out it wasn’t ready until about 3 in the morning… surprised? not really). Khalas. It was time for Kass and I to leave. Sultan drove us to the main road during which time I heard about his family; his father has four wives, he has 30 siblings, and his wife is pregnant with twins (hopefully not two girls – inshallah). Then Sultan’s brother, Khalid, drove us the rest of the way home. He wasn’t as chatty as Sultan, but he was great about answering all of my questions about the city.
It was a really entertaining experience. Obviously a touristy kind of thing to do, but something that I think everyone living or visiting here should try at least once. I plan on doing it again, and that makes Kassandra smile.