Globe Trotting J's 2019 Trip Day 8: Headdresses & Horizons

When I woke up this morning I was in disbelief that today was already our last day in Abu Dhabi. It felt like just yesterday we were driving past the Grand Mosque on our way to the St. Regis. And yet like clockwork the alarm went off at 9 AM and we were down at breakfast for one last run. Jenn had an omelette, Jake had an egg white omelette and I stuck with a light buffet breakfast. We took our time before heading back up to our room and packing up our suitcases.

At 11 AM we had the bellman grab our suitcases and we checked out and headed to a brand new GMC to take us the hour and a half from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. We had a very nice Pakistani driver who told us about his time in the UAE and how we missed out not going to Ferrari World (told you Jake and Jenn). The drive was smooth, the highways were wide open and we made it safe and sound at the Shangri-La Hotel Dubai.

We went and checked into our room and got an upgrade to a much bigger room on the 41st floor overlooking the Burj Khalifa and access to the Horizon Lounge with a private pool and gym. We took a quick room tour, unpacked our suitcases and got ready for our one tour of the day, a Desert Safari.

Before heading out on our though we went to the hotels tea time which happens every day between 2 - 4 PM on our floor. They have a nice variety of different teas and finger foods. Jenn stuck with tea while Jake and I devoured all of their small sandwiches, cookies, and macaroons. It was a nice light meal to set us up for the rest of the evening. At 4 PM our tour guide from Platinum Heritage picked us up at the Shangri-La and we were off to our evening desert safari.

After picking up at two more hotels we made the 45-minute drive from the Dubai city center to the outskirts of Dubai to what can only be described as wide open desert with some small farms. If you recall Jenn and I actually went on the same tour in 2015 but we thought Jake would love it and we loved it the last time we were on it. We made it to the entrance where we were all outfitted with traditional headdresses, our pictures were taken, and then we boarded into these older Land Rover that took us an hour journey through the heart of the desert. We made a couple of stops along the way for lookout points, picture spots, and to see some of the animals that live in the reserve (gazelles & antelopes). We were very fortunate to get a Land Rover for the three of us and one other guest which made it almost a private experience. We were hooting and hollering throughout the entire drive egging on our driver to go faster and for great pictures.

Jake was loving every second. I’m not sure I’ve seen him more excited by anything (maybe the Camels at the Pyramids) then the off-roading experience in the desert of Dubai. For Jenn and I even though we had already done this tour before the wonder of being in the desert again wasn’t lost on us and I think we got to appreciate and enjoy the experience even more than the first time. It also blows your mind to think about people living in these conditions out in the middle of the wide open desert in years past and how they were able to survive.

We concluded the hour drive through the desert with a glass of juice and a falcon demonstration. We all got to hold the falcon and take a picture before we watched a fifteen minute demonstration of a falcon going after its dinner. There’s something pretty remarkable about how fast and beautiful the Falcon is. The way in which it was able to shift from being perched on his hand to seconds later coming down from up on high at such high speeds was pretty remarkable.

Once the falcon demonstration completed we boarded back up in our Land Rover and went to the camp site where we spent the next two hours watching food demonstrations, learning the history of the region, viewing some traditional dances and some other activities related to the area. We skipped most of it instead deciding to make a bee-line straight to the camel riding area of the camp. Even though we rode camels for a nice amount of time in Egypt we decided to give it another go, albeit for a shorter amount of time. Jenn and I rode together on one while Jake got his own. These camels were in much better shape then those in Egypt and were much, much taller. The movement from sitting to standing position was quite the jolt. We took a nice walk through the desert on our camels before returning to our starting point and doing our best to gracefully dismount.

From the camels we went to get Jenn (and later Jake) a henna tattoo. Jenn got her right arm done up and Jake got his name (Jacob) in Arabic on his right forearm. When we were done with the hennas it was time to go and eat dinner. For dinner we all started with lentil soup and then they brought some appetizers to the table. We mainly stuck with the hummus but also enjoyed the falafels and other fried accompaniments. For our dinner we all had the lamb, with chicken skewers, camel meat (yet again) and rice. It was a very good dinner and hit the spot after a long day in the hot desert.

We finished up the night lounging on their couches, reminiscing on the day, and smoking some of their provided shisha and enjoying the vastly cooler temperatures. It was quite the evening and one that I think when we look back on this trip weeks, months, or even years from now we will reminisce on driving through the desert, laughing, and enjoying the beautiful horizon. When we left the camp a little after 10 PM there was a moment where the driver turned off the lights and engine of the Land Rover and the night sky encompassed us all. It’s a moment I won’t forget. The night ended with us being dropped off an hour later at the doors of our hotel where we went to sleep, sandy, but full of life.