We had the wonderful opportunity to do a touristy thing in Dubai....the whole lot of us went on a desert safari. Our driver, Ameen (I am guessing at the spelling), picked us up at our hotel around 3:30 in the afternoon. He picked us up in a four-wheel drive SUV that seats 8. Rich sat up front, the three kids sat in the very back seat, and I sat in the middle seat with two wonderful people from the UK. Kate is a young doctor and her boyfriends of a few years is originally from Sri Lanka but raised in the UK....Sab...he is a banker. They both have done extensive traveling around the world, so it was really a lot of fun to "swap travel notes" with them. I would guess they were in their late twenties. We drove a good 30 minutes to the outskirts of Dubai and the edge of the desert. There, we were told it was a good time to use the facilities before heading into the desert or perhaps get a cold drink. Meanwhile, Ameen was letting the air out of the tires in order to get better traction on the sand dunes. Then we were off...in groups of three cars for safety. We never rolled over, but it certainly appeared like we were headed in that direction several times. We saw three cars get stuck in the deep sand and our car actually rolled the tire off the rim in the first 20 minutes. Ever tried to jack up a car in deep, soft sand? Pretty impressive! This 4 wheel driving in the desert is called 'Dune Bashing' and it is FUN. Lily was laughing hysterically in the backseat (granted, she couldn't see out the windows to see how terrifying it was for a few of the adults). We stopped to play in the sand and look at two wild camels just walking around in the desert. We also stopped at a camel breeding farm. That was interesting. Unfortunately, they just let us look around. There were no presentations or anything like that. We stopped again to enjoy the sunset in the desert. I have seen sunsets in so many different kinds of locations...and sunsets in the desert was breathtaking. There, Rich challenged Joe to climb a mountain of sand. It was pretty steep. Even Ameen was impressed that he made it to the top. :o)
Once the dune bashing was over (about 1 hour later) we ended up at a small encampment, where we were gathered with about 200 other people who had just been doing the same thing. I got hinna painting done on my foot and ankle (it looks like mud but then flakes off in about an hour...the result is a golden tattoo-like dye on your skin that lasts a week - minimum). This is why it is on my foot. I could show it off in Dubai, where it is commonplace, but no one will see it in Norway - although I suppose the TaeKwon-Do folks will get a peek. :o) You could smoke a shisha pipe if you so desired...dress up in Emirate clothing and have your picture taken (I missed that one!) All five of us rode camels...which was so fun! Some of us, ahem...rode more than once! :o) Then we sat down to a wonderful feast of chicken, lamb and salads. It was so good. I think we had used up a lot of adrenaline in that hour of dune bashing and we were all really hungry. The women and men were served in different areas but we all came together to eat on large cushions on the cool desert sand (as it was dark by then). As we were finishing our meal of local fare, we were entertained by a belly dancer. She called several men and women up to dance with her. Afterwards, we were brought back to our hotels. It was a really wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it if you get the chance!