Friday arrived and we excitedly packed up the car for a camping trip that we'd been invited on with some of Skip's work colleagues. The group met up and we poured over the books to decide where to head off to. I sighed a sigh of relief that the group seemed to be a good bunch of people.
We'd been fed, the cars were fueled and we headed off for some fun. Before long we'd turned off the main road onto a sandy track, the kids squealing with delight in the back. As we drove further the sand became softer and the dunes became higher. We drove up a dune and discovered another group of adventurers stuck in the sand on the other side. They were happily digging themselves out, one car had gone up and over a steep dune coming to an almost vertical stop on the other side, its bull bar and front grill dug into the sand. So we reversed and went off on search on an alternate route past them.
We flew through the dunes, before our car became bogged right at the soft top ridge of a high dune. The boys dug and pushed and got their own cars stuck. The kids busied themselves by sliding down the dunes on pieces of cardboard. After a while, all three cars we free and we were off again. "Now that was fun," Skip said grinning.
After a short while we found a clump of ghaf trees and a herd of goats feeding under them. A strange sight after the endless orange dunes. Skip and I were buzzing from the fun of the drive, the amazing scenery and surprises at every turn.
The kids scared off the goats and we went on to search for a place to put up the tents. We turned through a bend and found ourself in a pretty little valley with another clump of ghaf trees. Perfection. We pulled up, threw up the tents and went exploring.
That evening, we huddled round the campfire, eating and telling stories, the dark sky sprinkled with stars. Everyone was getting along fantastically. The kids roasted marshmallows and were happy sitting in the sand inside of being tucked up in bed. As we were chatting away we saw a light on top of the dune and some strange shadows. As the shadows got closer, we realised that it was a man wearing traditional robes guiding two camels. He stopped near our campsite and showed the kids his camels. It was just the most amazing moment, realising that there was nowhere else we could be but the Middle East.
The next morning, the girls raced up and down the dunes as everyone else tried to sleep. As the rest of the group emerged from their tents, breakfast was eaten and we set off amongst the dunes again. We were driving along when Goosey cried out "Camels!" And sure enough there were a group of five camels not far from our car. A bit further along, we found a man herding a big group of camels back to a farm. The curious beasts looked in the car window to a row a blue-eyed kids staring agog. We followed the camels along the track until it was time to turn onto the main road and head home.
Back among the cars and trucks, I was missing the sandy trails, especially when a car overtook us as we overtook a truck. Heart stopping.
Home and exhausted and orange sand in every pore and crevice, we were happy. Some Dubai days are dull and lonely and monotonous. Some days are frustrating and ridiculous. And then some days are pure magic, so surreal and beautiful you can't believe you're actually there, that this is your life. Some days you feel like your living something out of a book or documentary, but then you actually feel the sand between your toes and see just how soft a camel's coat can be and it's so much better than it is in a book or a TV screen. You find yourself in the dark chatting to someone who's walking through the dunes with a couple of camels. That was the moment when I answered my own questions from the night before. This is why we're here. And yes, it's most definitely worth it.
|What you can't see in this picture is we're at the stop of a very steep dune...|
|Kids busied themselves while we recovered the vehicles.|
|The magic campsite. Truly a beautiful spot.|
|Exploring the dunes in the cool of the early morning.|
|Sledding the dunes.|
|Spot the camel.|
|Driving with camels, kind of like dancing with wolves.|
|The camels actually look kind of cuddly!|