Having been before, there was no great urgency in running up to deck 14 for our sail in. Like a thick fog, sand creates a dense haze with zero visibility over the city. Being creatures of habit, we couldn’t resist, and went up eventually. With the sun rising through the sandy haze it looked more like a sunset than a sunrise.
We docked at a different, larger terminal at Port Rashid. Looking new and rather glamourous, putting our Overseas Passengers Terminal to shame. As a Check-in chick, you tend to take interest in the facilities. Purpose built check-in desks where everyone gets to sit down…. Uggg!
Dubai is ever expanding, with always something new to build. Home to approx. 46% of the world’s cranes, the construction continues. A lot of this work is attributed to the upcoming World Expo in 2020.
The port area is being refurbished to what will be known as DP World. In the terminal, a model shows this grand development. The QE2 is still part of the landscape and only in Dubai will you will have carports built to cover the larger yachts; my guess the Sheiks.
We decided to spend the morning at the Dubai Mall taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Laptops in hand, we shared a taxi with Anne and John, and like pigs in mud, we happily spent the next few hours in air conditioned comfort, updating, downloading, emailing, anything that is just impossible to complete with the snail-paced internet on the ship. Only venturing out into the heat to snap a couple of pics of the Burj Khalifa, just to prove that we had been there.
In the evening we had booked a desert safari with Princess. Everything looks good en-masse, that was the sight that confronted us when entered the port carpark to begin our tour. Like a pack of anxious huskies, our all-terrain cars parked, revving their engines, drivers wanting a quick getaway. Like a Conga line at mardi gras we poured out of the port gates, only slowing down long enough for security to glimpse us waiving our cruise cards to prove we were off the ship. Like we didn’t look like a load of cruise ship passengers….
Muhammood, our driver seemed a little more preoccupied with the cricket broadcast on the radio, ignoring us six excited passengers in the backseats. Seeing the animation of the other drivers, we like puppies begging for attention, we kept trying to engage our driver into some sort of interaction. Always quick with an answer to your question, but lacking the banter that sometimes come with it.
Not unlike a funeral procession at a speed of 140km, all our cars weaved around the slower moving vehicles… Who said we needed sand for the thrill to start….
The high-rise slowly dissolved into desert as we left the boundary of the city. A never-ending desert, dotted occasionally by evidence of civilisation. We passed a camel racetrack, followed by a camel market with a Camel Hospital close by, hmm they look after their camels here. At $8 for a small block of camel milk chocolate, they are a commodity not to scoffed at.
On arrival at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the tyres were deflated. Then off we went, slowly along the sand we drove on a track many other cars had driven before. Undulating sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The occasional tuff of green vegetation and the squeals of delight when we spot the antelope like Oryx, pure white against the yellow sands.
The tone of our squeals soon changed as we reached the dunes. Sky turned to sand, back to sky was we roller coastered our way across the lunar like landscape. Cars popping in and out of view as they negotiated each of the dunes.
Our shrills and laughter were momentarily silenced with a mental chorus of “WHAT” when she asked the Pakistani living in Dubai. “Have you done this type of driving in deep snow” then the laughter broke out again, but for a different reason.
We all piled out of our cars at a vantage point to watch the sunset. Like ants we scurried up the warm sand anxiously waiting for the sun to disappear behind the sands. Our drivers ran off into a different direction huddled together waiting for another reason … to break their fast. We are here during Ramadan. Strictly no eating and no drinking during daylight hours. Like a call to prayer, the call to return to our vehicle echoes out.
Like an Oasis the campsite appears in the distance. Welcomed with coffee and fresh dates we entered an area recreated that took you back in time. Laid out carpets, cushions, campfires and water pipes awaited us. Lively Arabic music broke the desert silence and the smell of the BBQing meat was very inviting.
Like at a child’s birthday party we queued up, camels replace ponies, and the thrill is not in the ride but the execution of mounting and dismounting. Get up close to a falcon or get a henna tattoo, so many options to immerse yourself in this desert culture.
Felafel, koftas, lamb, chicken and salads all flavoured with middle eastern spices and chilli’s for a taste sensation to tantalize the taste buds. No matter how full I was I could not pass up dessert. For fellow Greeks... think Loukoumades, for Australians think donut holes, but instead of sugar, coated with golden syrup.
The only belly dancing happening tonight was the wobble of our very full tummies. Instead, we were treated to what we can only be describe as Arabic Whirling Dervishing. With his colourful full skirt in full flight, he whirled and twirled in one spot non-stop during the whole performance. Unlike a juggler he hung on to his tambourine like baskets displaying them in a different position on each rotation. In a Fabio moment, he unfurled his long black hair and allowed it to spin freely as he continued round and round. Mesmerised we watched, and with a signal of a whistle, we were thrown into darkness and suddenly like a xmas tree he lit up . Everyone clapped and cheered as he continued. Another whistle and the lights returned, the music stopped, he took his bows without any sign of dizziness.
We waddled back to the car and with great satisfaction we made our way back to the port. Dozing to the continuing cricket commentary, alternating between Hindi and English.
Back in Dubai, the streets had come to life as the fast was now broken for the day. The call to prayer melded from one mosque to another with each turn we took. The sounds accompanied us up until we board our ship and in sanctuary of our cabin.
Gaznjo’s Port Tips
As we were in the bigger terminal we had a face to face immigration in the building.
The Hop on Hop off bus was cheaper through Princess than in the port.
Taxi Tours were available in the terminal.
For short distances us the metered taxi’s found outside the terminal…. Much cheaper.
Taxi to the Dubai Mall approx. 50 dirhams ( $25 AUD )