Things to Do in Dubai: Arabian Desert Safari
Going on an Arabian Desert Safari is one of the best experiences I’ve done in Dubai. This is probably the only activity on the planet that gives you an adrenaline rush, sightsee and a food tour all in one day.
While some visitors do try to dress up like a Bedouin tribe for the Arabian Desert Safari, I encourage you not to. Honestly, at first I was thinking of dressing up, but felt that the authenticity just fades away and your attention shifts from experiencing their culture to worrying how you would look like.
What to dress for the Arabian Desert Safari
Make sure to dress in comfortable clothes for the Arabian Desert Safari, especially your shoes. Some wore knee high boots for the trip and Daisy Duke shorts. I spotted a guy wearing a white tank top and it was winter so he was shivering by night fall. It’s so tempting to look like MAD MAX FURY ROAD, but just be yourself. The Arabian Desert Safari is best experienced when you’re mingling with people of different ethnicities and you’re coming from a place of authenticity.
Where to book an Arabian Desert Safari Tour in Dubai
There are tons of tours online to book. It’s just a matter of choosing what works best for you and what activities will suit your taste. Some include dune bashing, sand boarding, while others didn’t even have camel riding — and that’s fine. Maybe you just want to take photos with the camels or see an oasis in the desert of Sharjah. As for me, it was a mixture of dune bashing, camel riding and an evening BBQ buffet. Of course, priorities: food.
Whichever you picked you will always be welcome with Qahwa and dates. This is my favorite activity. There’s something so intimate about being given coffee by a stranger, yet whose smile is so familiar.
From the welcome tent, you are taken to the activities by your tour guide or driver. We chose a private tour because with this, you can control your own pacing and not have to wait for others. But also, it was the downside as our driver wasn’t a local Emirati, and wasn’t fluent in English. So you can sense his hesitation.
But he was most experienced in dune bashing. The twists and turns up to the highest of the sand dunes in the Sharjah desert were dangerous and taxing to the car’s suspension system. I wondered how often they changed tires or go into maintenance. But we stopped twice just to clean the car’s interiors of the sand.
In winter, the sand dunes are cold. Make sure to pack a jacket. The chilly winds were not a joke and carried on till night.
Our tour guide/driver took us to the Al Marmoum tents, where we saw a beautiful oasis. All natural. Nothing was manmade.
Here we rode a caravan of three camels. The camels were so adorable! They can also be loud complainers. You’d earn an angry grunt from anyone who was too heavy to sit on top of them. And sometimes I feel like the camels gossip to each other. At one point, they veered off course despite being tied together. And I suspected it was my fat nephew sitting behind me. We were riding sideways.
Night fell, and the adorned tents served their purpose. The lamps were lit, and the grilling stations emitted smoke. I couldn’t wait for the evening BBQ to begin.
While you wait for the evening barbecue being setup, there are tons of activities like henna tattoo sessions or take photos with the falcon.
But instead, I sat beside a lady who moved to Dubai from Lahore. She was frying some Luqaimat / Legimat — doughnuts made of potato flour and drizzled with date syrup. It was the favorite moment of the night for me. We chatted about how the corona (that’s what they called Covid) wiped out the business in the area. A few tour guides from other tours gathered to join the conversation. I loved the intimacy among all of us, as if we were all healing right after a disastrous past couple of years. And we were all strangers.
The legimat weren’t very soft. They were chewy and sweet, but the conversations made up for it.
The dinner was set and everyone — about 10 tours — lined up orderly to grab our food. Dinner was a spread of lamb and chicken kebabs, hummus, tabouleh, pita and some basmati rice.
By midnight we were enjoying the traditional Afghan dance performance while eating some babousaa — Arabic sweet semolina cakes — and bread pudding.