We had a city tour booked. Our pick up was 30 minutes late. Finally when we got on to the ‘bus’, we thought we were ready to see Dubai. However, we sat another 90 minutes while the driver picked up fellow passengers. It would take him a stop, then about 5-10 minutes of chasing to get people in. The guide was in no sight. When we thought the bus was full with its 2+1 seats, the driver managed to load six more passengers. These were to sit on the pull-down seats that would fill up the aisle. Had never seen such ingenuity in filling up space. The guide boarded after some passengers complained not being able to sit together. He spoke patchy English and threw bits of information like Mina Bazaar had got nothing to do with little Meena (a girl’s name in Indian sub-continent) but all to do with the fish market close by. That was his joke of the day. He promised that the tour would take 3-4 more hours. We had a desert safari to catch at 3:30 and needed to catch lunch before then. We were pretty sure the bus wouldn’t be sticking to schedule given the lack of professionalism displayed so far. We decided to hop off at the first stop – the Dubai Museum. The stroll inside revealed the history of the city and how it had transformed from a nut and fruit trading post to the modern metropolis it now is. There are many artifacts from the third, second and first millennium B.C that would highly interest a history or archaeology student. Once through the museum, we decided the fill the time with a stop at the Atlantis, Dubai. The was on the shore of the man-made island Palmyra. We had been to the Atlantis at Bahamas, so the setting itself was of no interest to us as they are identical. The place was crowded. We managed to indulge in some scoops at the Cold Stone brewery and walked on the beach. The beach is fascinating in that the shore is lined with huge boulders, all man-made. Imagine the effort that would take to build a shore about a mile long to hold the sea water. And multiply that effort by to increase the shore line by a whopping 320 miles! The islands in the shape of a palm tree has luxury accommodation, lodging, malls and restaurants. Sections of the limbs are segmented by countries around the world.
We were back at the hotel to grab some great mid-easter food at the Kitchens. The lentil soup was so different from what we have had elsewhere. We hurriedly finished the food. Our desert safari pickup was more on time. We were shoved into the last seat on a Toyota Road Runner, which a four-wheel drive. It had these hang-bars all around. Some of the built-in support were broken – apparently when people pulled onto them to keep themselves stable on the desert rides. This gave me a clue how rocky the ride would be. We were the last passengers to be picked up, so there was no wait. Our first stop was an ATV park in the desert. There was no queue to buy tickets. You just pop your head into the tent when you can and ask for tickets. You need to sign a leaflet in a book, but the guy decided he didn’t need it from us. These rides were expensive at 250 UED for a two-seater and 150 UED for a one seater. Roughly 3.3 UED goes for a dollar. I tried to take my girl on a thrilling ride on the two-seater, but it wasn’t enjoyable. The steering would keep pulling to the left despite any amount of effort. The help found another ATV. This time I was able to get onto the field and was able to climb a dune or two. But my passenger wasn’t were ATV savvy – sitting at the back with your legs wide apart is apparently not a comfortable position when the vehicle rocks and rolls with frequent stops. After 10 minutes, we gave up. Our bus guide was surprised we had finished.
He then drove the group for about 20-25 minutes into the desert. It was a wild roller coaster ride with the vehicle ready to flip over any moment as he climbed up the dune or descended. He would rock the jeep more often so that we would experience the ‘thrill’. Frankly, it wasn’t all that thrilling. We stopped atop a dune as the sun was setting and managed to get some great photographs. Once the sun had set, it was another 30 minutes ride to a desert camp. The seating was on pillows on the ground surrounding a low table, much like you can imagine a hookah place. There were a lot of people maybe a couple of hundred spread around. The center stage was about 20′ x 20′. We were treated to a couple of belly dances and a fire dancer working the fire. The first belly dancer was probably not the best. For a belly dancer, she definitely needed to work out a lot more! Anyway, the belly dancing didn’t turn out to be as charming as some I have seen in a few Bollywood and Hollywood movies, thanks to the dancers. The fire dancer was more engaging. Dinner was served – thankfully there was vegetarian food by loads as most of the tourists were from the Indian sub-continent. Initially I was put off by the cramped seating spaces – they were easy on the knees, but I managed to pull away from my seating and get to the edge where there were empty seats and room to stretch. A few adventurous folks got onto the stage and had the huge eagle on their shoulders or their heads for photo opps. The sky was very clear and I was wondering if all the lights were turned off, it would have created more of a spectacle than the belly dancing.