By Grant Duvall
When someone goes to the Middle East, the main thing most people think of is desert and sand. With Planet Travel's Sunset Desert Safari and bbq, you get the full Middle Eastern experience in just a few hours!
This was another attraction included in the Go Dubai Card, and this was the best deal item on the card that we did. This would normally be 70-90 bucks, depending on the time, but this was all-included. The best way for me to explain this is to go step-by-step with the whole experience. We were picked up from our hotel in an enclosed Jeep. Now, this was one of the few days a year that it rains in the Middle East, so this puts traffic to a stop. When it rains, it monsoons, and they are not built for irrigation, so life comes to a grinding halt. It takes 15 minutes to move 1 mile. The drive, which should have taken 20 minutes, took over 2 hours. However, it didn't hurt the experience, as I slept most of the way there (vacationing is exhausting, yo).
We got off the freeway, and turned past the UAE military base with strict no photography rules enforced. I was surprised that this activity was so close to a military site! Also, this would be a great point for me to say that I knew nothing of this activity, other than the name, sunset safari and bbq. Then, the Jeep started speeding off the road! Turns out, we were going sand duning for about 45 minutes, up and down sand dunes at breakneck speeds. People were screaming, but I was loving it! This was a huge thrill that I didn't expect, and the driver was kind enough at several spots to take photos for us. Eventually, we landed at a nomad camp, but before we got in there, they asked us if we felt like riding a camel.
I, being a man of adventure, could not turn this down. First off, they have a distinct odor, which I cannot describe as anything but unpleasant. Getting onto the camel is also a challenge, as they are wide creatures. When they rise up, you move forward and then backwards aggressively. It's a shock that I didn't fall off. They walked me about 500 feet each way just to get a feel for it, and I really enjoyed it. I sense it would have been longer, but being that there was a time crunch, due to the weather delay, I feel some things got shortened to move it along. There were several other vehicles here as well, so that hundreds of people could enjoy the recreation of a nomad camp.
In the nomad camp were gift stores (but they let you haggle there so you can experience how people shop there, spoiler alert, I'm not meant for haggling), henna stations, complimentary hashish hookah (I don't smoke, but it was a nice touch to really get that Middle Eastern vibe), unlimited soda and water, and other small family-friendly activities. They took us to our table, which was on the ground, as is customary there. You sit on cushions, low to the ground, and are around a stage. They brought us a traditional middle eastern snack assortment, and then a whirling dervish took to the stage. He did a traditional act, where he was spinning at full speed, and changing outfits while also making plates appear and disappear. The music was loud, and a great taste of Arabian pop (seriously, it's awesome!). After he performed, they led us to the buffet, which had every traditional food from Dubai you could imagine - from hummus and baba ghanoush to gyros, veggies, lentils and salad! This was truly a feast. It was all-you-can-eat, and I may or may not have gotten seconds... or thirds.
At this point, an extremely talented belly dancer came out. She did traditional belly dancing, and I didn't realize, until witnessing it how, hypnotic it really is. It also looked incredibly hard. She then did modern belly dancing with a hip hop flair, and that was really fun. They then switched the buffet over to dessert mode, which had traditional middle eastern desserts, which were very cinnamon and coconut based. It was delicious.
After dessert, they gave us a few minutes to get some shopping in, and then took us back to our hotel. This was an incredible adventure, that really gave us the full Arabian experience with dunes, camels, entertainment, and food. This is a must-do if you go to Dubai, and if you got the Dubai Card, you would be a fool to miss out on an experience that leaves no guesswork. Creepy score - 3 out of 10. I felt like I was going to die during the sand duning, but the rest of it was very safe.