My fascination of the desert safari dates back to our earliest days in Dubai, when we were relatively new to this country, quite unaware of the culture of the land, as so of the other recreational activities around. Our first visit to the safari was an outing to celebrate my very first birthday in the UAE and must say, we were quite captivated by the open desert, it’s eye-catching, beautiful sunset, our first camel ride, the dune bash, the traditional Arabic Tanoura dance and most of all what bowled us out more was the delicious Indian-Chinese dinner served to the tourists. The overall electrifying experience got etched into our minds as a priceless memory and with each passing day the desire to repeat the experience and re-create the same thrill only kept growing further while we eagerly waited for that day to arrive.
It had been exactly five years now since we had been there, with the only difference being the addition of our four year old daughter to our family who shared a similar appetite and spirit for adventures and the same love for outings. All along we had been just waiting for our LO to grow up enough so that we could repeat all that we did before but along with her, this time.
So this time when the decision to go safariing was made, I, considering her age, decided to mentally prepare her for what was going to come. Accordingly, a day in advance, I began describing her on all that to expect at the desert such as the camels, lot of sand to play, a car ride that would go zig-zag (dune bashing) etc. Initially not understanding much, she kept asking if we were going to her class, whereupon we explained her that we are going for an outing where we would be seeing camels and her face noticeably seemed to brighten up at the idea.
As soon as we reached the location, dune bashing was the first thing that awaited us. Wasting no further time, we instantly crammed into the back seat of the land rover and positioned ourselves with LO held tightly on my lap, since the seat belt could not be stretched to accommodate the two of us. I kept assuring her that a lot of fun would follow now as the car would start moving zig-zag and she waited and watched with bated breath. As the vehicle started going up and down over the dunes, me and hubby kept checking out on her but she seemed fine and the silent smiles she kept giving assured us that she was very much at ease and enjoying the pleasure and thrill of the bumps.
The dune-bash over, we got down from the vehicle, set our foot on the sandy desert when her face gave out an odd expression of standing on an unfamiliar territory but yet she non-challantly got along. Slowly as we trudged our way towards the tents, she started enjoying the sand play under her foot, our shoes all filled with sand and began following me in emptying the sand-filled shoes
Hubby clicked some snaps of me and LO when we noticed that the camel rides have already started, with people queuing up for their turns, so we decided to do as much. Once again I prepared my LO for the camel ride and she seemed quite ok to go along with it. There were five camels, all tied up one behind the other such that they formed a line. The first camel was visibly upset and unwilling to carry anyone, which was understandable considering the heat of the afternoon sun but what scared us was the way she was bawling and trying to butt at the people who came close. Seeing this, we decided to skip all of the first three camels, simply to avoid going anywhere close to the first one and I chose the fourth, a smaller one that looked quite peaceful and accomodative towards the riders. I decided to take the backseat and keep LO in front of me so that I have complete hold and control over her safety and hubby got on the seat ahead of me. With this settled, we climbed on the camel’s back with LO firmly placed between us. After everybody was seated, the camels started getting up one by one and when ours began to get up, the action caused us to suddenly sway backwards and LO let out a small ‘ammaaaa’ but once the camel stood up, she was fine and seemed happier. When the camel finished the ride and proceeded to sit down, the same ámmaaá’ could be heard once again when we swayed towards the front this time. Hubby who was the first to get down, clicked a snap of me and LO on the camel’s back since this was ‘her’ first time after which we got off the camel. But this was not done yet for LO as till the end of the whole tour, she kept on asking for more camel rides which we obviously dissuaded for not wanting to trouble the camels anymore.
We then proceeded towards the recreational area. There were lot of tents surrounding a setting in the centre. This setting had a centre-stage surrounded by several rows of long but low-level tables (to eat) along with cushions (to sit upon in place of a chair). The idea was primarily to enable the tourists to enjoy the Arabic dance show (scheduled during twilight hours) while having a table-dinner sitting on the cushion. A lot of cushions were placed in all the tents too for the tourists to relax and sleep, should they wish to. Everyone was profusely sweating due to the sweltering heat and our skin had started turning red (probably the beginnings of sun-burn) but nevertheless we decided to enjoy and make the most of this as we refreshed ourselves with water, chips, juice etc that we had carried from home.
After some time, when it was about 6 in the evening, we moved on to the centre area outside the tent and reserved a placed for ourselves. There were small shops outside the tents that sold various cultural items, feng shui products, toys etc. Me and LO spent some time in the small shops checking out the displays there while she chose a spinner and a doll for herself while hubby awaited at our table. By the time we returned, the eating stalls were open to serve fruit juice, sweets etc. There were some paid as well as some free stalls. Hubby got some sweets and juice while we remained at our table getting acquainted to some fellow Indian tourists, after which we found ourselves enjoying the evening with sweets and juice along with the home made Pasta while waiting for the events to follow.
With everyone busy eating and drinking, some African tourists decided to do volunteer their own fun, by singing and merry-dancing on the centre stage while others cheered at them or joined them. As we were trying to comprehend the goings on around, there entered the belle dancer, an utmost beautiful lady, on-stage and began to perform (part of the safari tour package). What followed her was a furore of madness, as people grew crazy, cheering and lauding her while she continued with her job in the spirit of a true professional. Strangely, LO too had got extremely excited as she watched the dance and grabbing the mobile phone from my hand she attempted to shoot some pics of the belle dancer. Amused though, I could not quite comprehend on the reasons for her wanting to take pics of an unknown lady, I nevertheless let her go ahead with whatever she wanted and in fact helped her in clicking the pics. Sometime later when LO asked me as to where the mermaid was, I was into peals of laughter as only then it struck that she had mistaken the belle dancer for a mermaid, her favourite character out of her story books. Also the belle dancer’s attire more-or-less resembled those that the mermaids in the books wore. Her innocence intrigued as much as it touched me as I gathered her into my arms, explaining to her as to how she was not a mermaid. Soon dinner was laid out coupled with tanoura dance (i.e. a traditional skilled Arabic dance) performed by a male artist. We enjoyed this part as much but however, with our tummies full and loaded, decided to skip dinner.
This trip was almost as enjoyable as the first one, especially because of the addition of our little one but the discourteousness of some workers over service of snacks (which was kind of strange) did put everyone to a little bit of discomfort. My fetish for ‘the Safari’ has probably ended after this second round and maybe, atleast for now, I will not be looking forward to doing this anywhere in the immediate future but even this one gets a page into the books of our priceless memories.