By Mario Ng
When in Dubai, one of the key things tourists look forward to is to see the desert. Funnily enough, it can be quite difficult to see nothing but sand when in Dubai. This is of course due to the incredible speed at which the city grew, and visitors will more likely see a metropolitan city when he touches down in Dubai.
Nowadays, there are dedicated tours available to bring tourists to the desert, and it includes various activities to entertain them. For us, this was definitely on our bucket list, and we did quite some research beforehand to select a good tour operator. We found Platinum Heritage and saw that it received lots of good reviews. The fact that many Hollywood celebrities also used the tour operator impressed us, since this surely spoke of its quality.
Walking across the desert the old-fashioned way
Platinum Heritage offers quite a few tours, and visitors should consider carefully before choosing one. For those who do not have a budget issue, Platinum Heritage offers unique tours, such as an overnight desert safari and a sunrise hot air balloon ride. A private night safari and astronomy experience is also available for those who demand privacy.
For the rest of us, we chose from the more conventional options. Out of them, we zoomed in on 2 choices. The desert safari was certainly what we desired, but we had to choose from either the Heritage Desert Safari or the Camel Desert Safari. Both generally offers the same itinerary, but with one key difference. The Heritage option gives you a wildlife drive around the desert in a genuine vintage 1950s-era Land Rover. Well-loved by the Queen herself, the Land Rover has been in use in the UAE for the longest time. Kept in pristine condition, these land rovers brings visitors back to the 1950s as they travel around the desert. The Camel option on the other hand, provides guests with a 45-minute adventure across the desert on a camel, allowing us to experience just for a while how a Bedouin travelled across the desert in the olden days. Coming from the tropics where our only interaction with a camel was at the zoo, we almost instantaneously chose the latter option!
The jeep is available for those who wish to travel like the Queen
It is important to note that while this tour probably takes some 7-8 hours in total, it really starts only from the afternoon onwards, and ends some time after 11pm. So, it will be good for you to plan something in the morning, to make full use of your time in Dubai!
The exact pick up time will only be made known on the day of the tour, so you must make sure you are contactable via email, and wait for their confirmation. We received confirmation at 9.30am that we will be picked up at 4.30pm, and we could then plan our day accordingly.
The ride into the desert took less than an hour, and your guide should be quite excited, explaining to you about Dubai, and query you on the national sport of the UAE! The car journey was also interesting, as you get to see the transition of the landscape taking place. As you travel farther away from the city, you see more sand and less buildings. Very soon, the skyscrapers were all behind and you get to see the original Dubai, which is essentially a desert.
After arriving at our destination, we soon found out just how hot the desert is. Stepping out from an air-conditioned vehicle, the reality struck us instantly! However, we soon adapted to the conditions and were raring to go! It was time to be a Bedouin traveller and we got on the camel, with much help from our Arabic friends. It was really quite amazing to ride a camel, and we bounced up and down each time the camel took a step. The camels were obviously experts in the desert, as they were able to skilfully manoeuvre around in the harsh desert conditions. True to belief, we also saw how long their eyelashes were. Indeed, we get how some ladies envy those eyelashes!
The view of the magnificent desert
We managed to see the Arabian oryx roaming about in the desert, and our camera phones were duly out. It was quite wonderful to see them moving about freely in the desert and roaming about with their families.
My camel was one cheeky animal, and on quite a few occasions turned back to look at me. I managed to snap a few wefies with this beautiful creature! It was something to bring back home with and is a memory I will cherish for a long time. At 45 minutes, the journey did not feel long at all, but was perfect as we settled in to rest. It was also at this time when the sun was setting and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. For some reason, the sun seemed bigger and lower in the desert, and beautiful pictures were easily captured on our camera phones.
Our rides for the day
At this point, those folks enjoying the vintage Land Rover rides were also back, and we were all gathered together for a falcon show. We could all take pictures with the falcon, and the most surprising thing everyone agreed was just how light the falcon was!
We learnt that the falcon is in fact not native to the UAE. Through the presentation, we found out that the falcon is so precious and important that each animal has their own passport! We were given a treat of the bird’s flying capability, and saw how it flew into the skies and came back down, almost with a vengeance! At one point, it almost crashed into me as I was stood up taking a video of it. Evidently, it was playing ‘chicken’ with me and I lost! It was interesting to know that these birds cannot keep flying without rest as they do not know when they are tired. Hence, it is the keeper’s duty to bring the falcon back to rest, before it flies to the point of exhaustion and come crashing down. When the keeper finally succeeded in bringing it back, we could all see the falcon panting heavily. An interesting technique to calm the falcon down when it is not flying is to have their head covered with a hood. This prevents the bird from reacting to things, which can really push the bird to fly off and seize the day!
Listening intently about the falcon as the sun sets over the Middle Eastern desert
The sun had all but set at this point, and it was time for some dinner! As part of the tour, we were promised an authentic Arabic cuisine for dinner, and we were able to enjoy it in the comfort of a Bedouin camp. We were given a tour of the camp, and shown a presentation of how some Arabic food used to be made, from cooking coffee beans to making pita the traditional way. We were also later given the fresh pita bread as part of our dinner. It was simply delicious!
Arriving at an authentic Bedouin camp where we had our dinner
We first got a taste of some traditional starters, including oysters and cheese native to the Middle Eastern region. The oysters were eaten differently here, where they are grilled over fire before being served. As usual, they were delicious. We especially loved the oysters and the freshness of it.
Just a sample of the large amounts of food served that night
There were lots of meat available that night, and we were completely filled up by the time dinner ended. One dish that to us really stood out was the traditional ouzi. Also known as an Arabic spiced lamb, it is simmered in an underground pit for six hours, where the natural heat of the desert cooked the dish to perfection. It was one of the tastiest meats we had eaten in Dubai! We also got to taste some camel meat, which we found out is a good source of protein and is relatively healthier than other meats. Good for us! Of course, dinner is never complete without a cultural performance. And so, the lovely folks at Platinum Heritage organised a traditional dance performance for us in the middle of the Bedouin camp, and we were treated to a wonderful performance. For those who secretly harbour hopes of becoming the next Freddie Mercury, you need not worry. During the performance, they encouraged guests to join in, and there were quite a few singers and dancers joining in that night!
Watching a traditional dance performance after our dinner at the Bedouin camp
With most amazing tours, time flew past and it was soon time to head back. It was pitch black in the desert by now and this much was clear when we headed towards our vehicles outside the camp. Away from the bright lights, we could see the skies in all its beauty. Realising our camera phones simply cannot capture the beauty of the cloudless sky, we simply looked up and marvelled at nature. It was yet another wonderful thing to see in Dubai, where the desert is far away from the city, away from the different types of artificial lights.
Already reminiscing about our time in the desert as we headed back to the city
By the time we reached our hotel an hour later, it was about 11pm, tired but still wide awake, and we were constantly talking about the day’s activities. If you are heading to Dubai, you simply have to make a visit to the desert. We highly recommend choosing this tour operator for your trip to the desert. Its service levels were absolutely top-notch, and we thoroughly enjoyed every activity planned out for us!
Sample dinner menu at Platinum Heritage tours:
Cost: AED 595 per person (Heritage Desert Safari / Camel Desert Safari)
Please note that this article may contain links to websites, where any subsequent purchases made may provide straitstravellers with a referral commission. This in turn helps supports the running of this website. We appreciate your support thus far. Thank you!