The red and yellow desert

“The beautiful sunset cast long shadows across the deep red sand making the terrain even more dramatic”

Sharjah and Dubai,  United Arab Emirates

It has been one of my wishes, while we have been in Dubai, to venture into the desert to see the sunset. I have done this many years ago at the Atacama Desert in Chile and remembered how the sun casted long shadows in the sand turning the sand into a golden sea – it was a photographer’s dream.

What excited me more about where we were venturing on this desert safari is that we were going to the red desert and we were actually going to experience driving across the dunes.

There are a number of desert safari companies in Dubai but we went with Red Dune Tourism and were lucky enough to be given an entertainer voucher, meaning we got 2 tour places for the price of 1. We were collected from our apartment and the tour got off to a slow pace while we picked up other passengers along the way making the transfer time to the rendezvous point a long 1 and half hour drive.

The rendezvous point where we waited for the rest of the 4x4s to join us, was at Al Merdan Quadbiking pitstop in Sharjah. Here you could get refreshments and visit the toilet facilities which were adequate, but it is best take your own tissues and handwash. You also get the chance to have a go on the quad bikes. This might sound boring but we did not venture on one but rather watched others have a go with no helmets and everyone zig zagging in all directions as there was ‘no route’ for people to follow.

It was from here you could really get the sense of scale of the desert and the deep red sand. As we went before the UAE National Day there was also a sense of country pride as everywhere you turned you could spot the colourful red, white, green and black flags blowing in the breeze.

Once the tyres of the 4×4 were deflated to cope better on the soft terrain were were off! I was so not prepared for the trip and although exhilarating it was frightening at the same time, as we ventured over the dunes often slipping sideways down the dunes to many a gasp from myself. Our driver, Adil, was really skilled having done desert racing in Pakistan. He certainly knew his way along the route and made sure everyone was okay and enjoying themselves. It felt reassuring to be in a safe pair hands even though I closed my eyes a few times.

White knuckled, we got out of the 4×4 to watch the beautiful sunset. It cast long shadows across the deep red sand making the terrain even more dramatic. The sun was a perfect ball turning a vibrant red as it disappeared from sight leaving behind a golden hue across the horizon.

The only disappointment about the desert was that it seems where humans go so do the rubbish and it was really sad to see in a number of places plastic water bottles littering the landscape.

From the desert we left the big red dunes behind and headed towards Dubai, where the sand changed from red to yellow with dotted green vegetation. Our final stop was at a Bedouin style camp for dinner and entertainment. Here they have recreated a camp to show the Bedouin lifestyle and culture. Bedouin is a group of nomadic Arab people who inhabit the desert.

At the camp you can ride camels, have your picture taken with a falcon, go sandboarding, have henna hand painting and smoke shishas. The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming with long tables set out with red sturdy cushions on the ground.

The entertainment was rather enjoyable as we watched a Tanoura Dance – where a man spins in an almost trance like state with a multi coloured skirt for about 30 minutes. It is quite a popular folk dance in the Islamic countries and it made me dizzy just to watch! We were then entertained by a belly dancer and fire performer. It was quite phenomenal to watch him twirl fire around to create amazing visual affects along with fire breathing.

The food was surprisingly better than expected with lots of fresh salads, flatbreads, grilled chicken, lamb and fish and some non traditional curries. We were also pleasantly surprised that we could enjoy a chilled bottle of wine while watching the show and eating under the stars.

It was a long but really exciting day and I would certainly recommend a trip to the desert when you are in Dubai!