Sunset Safari Compound
It was my first visit to a desert landscape, and all of my knowledge was based on movies involving long stints of being lost in one. What’s the worst that could happen?
It was late January and a bone-chilling 83°F/28°C outside. The wind was mild, and the sun was bright. Our driver rummaged through the glove compartment of the luxurious Toyota off-road SUV, looking for what I assumed to be sunglasses, but instead pulled out a tire pressure gauge. Why do you need to check the tire pressures? I ask. He replied with a smirk on his face “I’m letting air out, so we don’t get stuck.” It was at that moment that I realized this was going to be no ordinary drive through the desert.
Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) Desert
The Rub Al Khali
The Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) Desert is the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world. It covers roughly 250k square miles and spans four countries: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.
The reddish-orange sand dunes (caused by the presence of feldspar) reach heights of up to 820 feet.
Scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the 2004 film Hidalgo were filmed in the Rub.
Riding The Dunes
We thrashed left and right, up and down the dunes. One moment looking to the sky and the next barreling to our deaths. The sand was coming at us from all sides making a loud static noise as it rushed across the windows. I felt that at any moment we would surely be stuck and end up like one of the characters in the movies stranded with no food or water for days if not weeks. Our driver always managed to pull out of the toughest spots and then get us right back into one starting the feelings all over again.
Tip: If you get motion sick I would recommend you sit in the front or back middle seat.
Watch my video on Riding The Dunes.
So one of the main reasons for choosing to go on a sunset safari was to test out my new GoPro by trying my hand at some sand dune boarding. I have never been on a snowboard, and the one time I tried skiing, it was a disaster. So my aspirations were low, but I felt like I had to give it a go. It turns out sand is not nearly as fast as snow, so I felt very comfortable, up until the point where I wiped out that is.
Watch me attempt some Dune Boarding.
After what seemed like hours of vertigo-inducing excitement, we finally arrived at our fort-like desert oasis. Upon entering, my attention was immediately drawn to a man with a falcon on his arm. I hadn’t seen or heard much about falcons, but I knew right then that at some point in the evening I would be taking a picture holding a falcon because, why not?
There was no shortage of activities for the evening. It was very touristy, but that’s not so bad every now and again. Henna painting, traditional Arab costume photos and a whole corner area of hookah’s to lay back and enjoy.
Safari Belly Dancer
At the end of a long, exciting day, what could the hosts of this event possibly add that would send the evening over the top? A belly dancer of course. This was a very welcome surprise. She had the whole crowd in the palm of her hand with her flashy wardrobe and seemingly elusive hips. I had never seen a belly dancer before, and I was certainly not disappointed.
Dinner was an amazing array of traditional Emirate BBQ. The beef and chicken kabobs melted right off the stick. The garden salad and hummus were the best I’ve had in a long time. There were beef and chicken stews and chickpea dishes. There were even fries and coleslaw for the individuals with American cravings. The Desert was a delicious bread pudding that could put you right to sleep. Overall the food could rival any five-star restaurant out there for sure.
Good Vibes, Cool People
At the end of the day after all the crazy ups and downs, bright desert sun and high dunes of sand the thing that sealed this adventure in my memory were the people I met and got to hang out with. After all, when you have good vibes and cool people nothing else really matters!