This winter, you can feel the wind in your hair, cruising around the desert in a vintage car, while you make a quick stop to say hello to an Arabian onyx.
Provided by the Platinum Heritage and part of the Dubai Destinations campaign, UAE residents and tourists get a chance to experience the desert in true Emirati style.
While the company provides many different desert safari packages, their “Heritage Safari” is particularly for those wanting to get a closer look at the culture, traditions, and unique desert landscapes. Gulf News recently got to be a part of the experience to give readers a firsthand look and I, along with our Senior Visual Journalist, decided to try it out.
We were picked up by our guide for the day to be taken into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR), the UAE's first national park.
On the way, the guides usually use this time to educate guests about the UAE’s landmarks, culture and customs, as most of the guests are tourists.
“Depends on where I am picking up my guests from. I usually point out various landmarks in Dubai like the Global Village or Burj Khalifa, and give them a brief history about it. We are encouraged and trained to answer their questions,” said our guide, Hosam Fatteh.
Driving through the desert, 50s style
Once we got to the reserve, a fleet of vintage Land Rovers were waiting for us. With a rainbow of colours to choose from, we picked the olive-green four-wheel drive, which teleported us right into the 1950s, when the vehicle was first introduced to the UAE.
Four-wheel drives like the one we got to sit in were used to move around the UAE during the 1950s.
Then Fatteh drove us through a track in the desert, while talking to us about the flora and fauna of the UAE, especially the desert. We even got to wave at herds of beautiful Arabian onyxes and sand-coloured gazelles, which were a challenge to spot in between the golden dunes.
Meeting Nova the falcon
As the sun started to set, we arrived to a Majlis-style (traditional seating arrangement) setting in the middle of the desert. Awaiting us were falconer Waseem Khaliq and his trusty winged-friend, Nova.
Khaliq has been working with Nova, a three-and-a-half year old peregrine falcon, for over a year now. He believes his interactive falcon show will raise more awareness about the Nature, falcons and the UAE’s heritage.
“When they [tourists] see the falcon flying, they get very excited and interested in the history of falconry in the UAE,” Khaliq said.
Guests also got to take Instagram-worthy pictures with Nova.
The falcon show focuses on the significance of falconry in Emirati culture and how the bird was used to hunt in the past. Khaliq’s demonstrations of how a falcon hunts, ended with loud cheers and claps from the audience.
Emirati-style feast, performances and more
The final destination was the camp. Set up as a classic UAE-style tent, the camp is where guests enjoy food, performances and more.
We were greeted with gentle sprinkles of rose water, which was particularly plesant after a day in the sun, and Emirati dates.
Next, we devoured our freshly fried Kibbeh and Sambousek, after our long day in the desert, and got to enjoy the performances.
Dancers started the Yola performance (a traditional dance form in the UAE), followed by the drumming session called Al Ayyala. At one point, tourists from far ends of the world, from Belgium to Russia, also got up to join the drumming session as one of the Emirati performers guided them.
Next came the dinner feast, before which a guide gave a short presentation talking about each dish and its significance in Emirati culture.
We got to try out the lamb Ouzi, a rice-based dish that is slow-cooked buried in the sand along with charcoal.
Dishes usually served at weddings like Harees, a dish made from wheat and meat, and camel meat stew.
As the evening got cooler, many sat by the fire pit, enjoying their time in Nature.
How to book a session?
Various desert safari sessions can be booked on the Platinum Heritage website. The company can be contacted on their contact number and WhatsApp number listed on their website or by emailing them on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the #DubaiDestination promotional campaign on social media, to see Dubai’s unique and vibrant culture, sights, activities, shows, events and festivities.