Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sandy Sand

The desert. Oh so beautiful at times. Oh so sandy all of the time. I never thought too much about the desert to be honest. But living on the Arabian Peninsula there is not much chance to not think about the desert, as it's all around you in one way or the other. Even in the city there is sand here and there and everywhere. It's not a nuisance per se, but it's something you notice that is always a bit unusual. And then there are the dreaded sand storms which come down to Kuwait from Iraq and turn the lovely view from my office on the left into the miserable gloom of a view on the right!

When it comes down to it, though, just like any other type of terrain, the sand and desert if nothing else are made for exploring. My first desert explorations came in the form of two short trips to an area about an hour outside of Dubai. Not sure what the area is called, but it's well known because it's where many people go to drive around in the sand, whether it be on ATV, motorcycle, or Land Cruiser. When it comes down to it the area has some inklings of a tourist trap, but there are plenty of locals from Dubai and Abu Dhabi around getting their kicks driving around (and getting stuck in) the sand. My first trip was with a few coworkers where we rented some ATVs and drove around in the sand for a couple hours. We started off in a fenced off area that was an anarchist's dream - no rules, no order, just a handful of idiots driving up and down hills and around blind corners never knowing when you might crash into another hapless lunatic. Fantastic! After about twenty minutes of getting used to the quads and learning how to not get stuck in the sand (or at least how to get unstuck) we put our big boy pants on and ventured out into the real deal dunes. The main feature was a huge dune that took a bit of skill to make it up without getting stuck - at least in our moderately powered 250cc jobbies. Best part of course then being able to race down the back side of the dune. Good times indeed.

The second short jaunt to the area involved hiring a guy with a Land Cruiser to drive us around on a "Desert Safari". Oooh exotic. I did that with my friend Patti who was in town visiting from London. It basically involves him driving us around all over the dunes for an hour and a half as we pretend not to be crapping our pants nor getting car sick. Luckily neither happened in our case, but the driving was pretty intense. I was very impressed by the skill of our driver, but not surprised that half the people that go get a little queasy after bounding up and down sand dunes, sliding sideways here and there, and generally just getting jolted out of your seat constantly. Once again, fantastic! Our driver was an independent (i.e. not part of a tour group) named Amour from Zanzibar. He was a very cool guy who was just about to get his Emirati citizenship after living in Dubai for the last 25+ years with no citizenship or papers of any kind. He knew Dubai very well of course and told us lots of interesting stuff about all the changes that have occurred recently, and he also told us about how he was a stunt driver for Syriana which was filmed right around there. Anyway, Amour was a very skilled driver and we had a great time sliding all around the dunes.

We made a couple stops to check out the views, which were quite breathtaking. The desert was very beautiful, with gorgeous red and pink and orange tones that even a color blind guy like me could appreciate. We also made a stop at a little camel farm so Amour could pick up some fresh camel milk (literally fresh - straight from the source) and say hello to an old friend of his. The camels were quite hilarious looking, particularly the babies. Lanky.

The next desert exploration came when LuLu came up to Kuwait for a visit. Top of the agenda was a jaunt up to the border of Iraq, which is only about an hour and a half from Kuwait City. It was great to see a bit more of Kuwait besides the city, although the landscape of barren Kuwait is not quite as nice as what I saw before just outside of Dubai. However, road trips of any kind are always great - especially when you have little concept of how fast you're driving and you're in the middle of Kuwait so it doesn't matter much anyway! The driving was a bit tricky, however, because it was windy as schell up there as a sand storm was a brewin'. To be honest, the border itself was a bit anti-climatic, especially since we were not allowed to get to the actual border. I believe where we got to was a UN controlled border, which had little fan fair (no "Welcome to Iraq" signs) other than a concrete barrier telling us which way to go to get to Baghdad and Basra - for future reference.

Last but certainly not least, was an almost fully bona fide road trip that LuLu and I took to the east side of UAE to the emirate of Fujairah. (I am defining a bona fide road trip as requiring an overnight stay). However, this was most certainly a splendid day trip, culminating with random peeps stopping off on the side of the road at sunset to pray. Fantastic! Anyway, Fujairah is about two and a half hours from Dubai, so after having a nice breakfast at the Lime Tree Cafe and stopping off to pick up some snorkel gear we made it to Snoopy Rock mid-afternoon for our snorkeling adventures. On the way, we drove through some of the most amazing mountains I have ever seen. The mountains around there are so crazily craggily it is quite unreal. I was determined to get a decent photo of them while driving (and perhaps succeeded) but have not had a chance to pull them off of Miss LuLu's camera as of yet. However, check out her Scyphozoans post for some additional thoughts on the fun to be had at and along the way to Snoopy Rock. Anyway, the snorkeling was amazing - I saw 5 black tip reef sharks, a sea turtle and a vast array of very colorful fish. It was superb. Unfortunately, my accomplice suffered a handful of jellyfish stingings in the process. D'OH. I believe she will concur with me, however, that it was still a quality trip.

I leave you with a parting comment in tune with the driving theme: always buckle up. I did not realize Darth Vader was from Kuwait, but apparently he is. And apparently he speaks Arabic. And apparently he wears his seat belt. So you should too.. Happy road tripping..


At 2:20 AM GMT+4, Blogger RennyBA said...

I came to you're blog just by surf searching and the fact that the world is big and different hit me. Take a look at mine and see the differents in the winter wonder land :-)

At 9:44 PM GMT+4, Blogger Tim said...

I know you drive faster than 100mph! Just tell lashley not to watch...

At 6:24 PM GMT+4, Blogger Mike McFadden said...

Good to see you're up and running with the blog.

There is now a link from mcfaddencircle.blogspot.com

At 1:25 PM GMT+4, Blogger Muhammad Amjad said...

You have shared such informative blog i like it so much.It is very useful info.Overnight desert safari Abu Dhabi is the one marvelous location for the tourists.At the end of day in evening the tourists stay in desert in camps and enjoy the overnight activities.
Oernight desert safari Abu Dhabi


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