STOCK under the stars
Image Credit: Pexels

Facebook recently showed me a memory — a picture of us — the husband and I, standing on a sandy dune, our feet buried in the sand, alongside our first and best friends — Divya and Jixon, our faces aglow under the warmth of evening sun and the delightful company of friends on our first desert safari. That year had seen many firsts for it was our first year together in the UAE. We had witnessed the amazing transition of the scorching summer sun mellow down into gentle brightness through that first winter, that cool winter December evening when we made our first visit to The Global Village and excitedly explored the pavilions and that Dec. 4 when we watched in absolute awe the National Day fireworks light up the night sky. The firsts have a joy to it that attaches itself to the memory and makes a warm comeback every time the memory resurfaces.

Along with the FB memory came the realisation that we had been so caught up with life that we had missed doing the desert safari with the children. With little planned for the long weekend, I began to make enquiries with friends about booking for one, when one of my friends suggested that we could instead spend the National Day evening camping in the desert. A regular camper — Sindhu exclaimed that a barbecue, the unhindered view of the stars, the night sky lighting up with fireworks, the amazing weather and the warm company of friends was a perfect way to spend a winter night. This was an offer we simply could not refuse and above all we were excited that this was going to be another first!

On the evening that UAE celebrated the year of the 50th, our cars loaded with supplies, we found our way to the perfect camping spot. We reached just in time to settle down to watch the setting sun. There was a sense of magical quiet as we watched the last rays of the sun painting its finest work of art — the colour of fire hearths and tangerines — upon the canvas of the infinite sky as the golden orb had burned itself for the day and made its way down the horizon; the infinite expanse of the golden brown desert below it reflecting its colour before they too mirrored the sky and turned into a vast expanse of black nothingness occasionally dotted by the lights of a camp fire just as the sky was dotted by the twinkle of a constellation of stars. Watching the sight before us, it was difficult for our minds to contemplate that it was a desert of nothingness that has transformed into a hustling bustling city that we now live in.

With the sun setting behind the dunes, city life felt far away. For the evening, we were the desert dwellers, huddled together around a fire under the roof of the infinite night sky, the cold dispelled by the warmth of togetherness, the quiet broken by the sound of laughter and incessant chatter, the air heavy with the aroma of a barbecue dinner, the joy of breaking bread together followed by fun games that required human interaction and not a screen. As the night got colder, the games, food and chatter done with, the children were seen lying down on a high dune staring up at the sky, savouring the silence while observing the twinkling stars that decked the inky sky, while we packed up for the night.

We had so much fun that we are already planning our next camping trip. But the next time over, I will remember to shake the pile of desert sand off of Little Princess’s clothes and backpack however sleepy she is unless I am looking forward to burning some calories with some intense post-camping cleaning exercise that is bound to follow upon reaching home.

— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha