When looking into things to do in Dubai, a desert excursion usually lands in the top 10. We asked our concierge to set one of these Dubai desert adventures up for us. There are numerous options for these tours, all costing around the same $150 to $250 USD depending on what you want to do.
Our driver picked us up at our Hotel around 3pm in the afternoon. We jumped into the white Toyota Land Cruiser, along with 2 other couples. Our driver, Mustapha introduced himself, and gave us some information about Dubai as we drove out of the city.
After about 30 minutes, the buildings started to become sparse, and soon we found ourselves on a highway in the middle of the Desert. 20 mins later, we arrived in what appeared to be an outpost, or staging area. Mustafa told us we would be meeting up with some other trucks, and had 20 minutes to explore. The outpost is made up of a few buildings, containing convenient stores, and memorabilia.
You can rent 4 wheelers and take them for a spin on the dunes; 20 minutes will cost about $20 USD a person. In addition, there are a handful of guys walking around hawking traditional head scarves. Expect to pay about $5 USD for the scarves, unless you are great at bartering.
Dubai Desert Off Roading
After the outpost we headed off into the desert. A few minutes later, every shred of civilization has disappeared, other than the occasional piece of garbage. Stopping, we waited for the other trucks to meet up with us. The drivers all got out and deflated their tires simultaneously. I thought this was strange at the time, but as explained the deflating allows them to drive on the the dunes without rolling over.
As we set out into the desert, it was not smooth sailing. We a’re flying over the dunes, swerving and fishtailing through, on top of, and on the side of the mounds. Everyone in the car was in pure panic mode for the first ten minutes. At every corner it seemed that we were going to roll the truck. Then we would hit the top of a dune, and drop down the other side, not being able to see where we were dropping to.
Car sickness aside, we all started to become comfortable with this after a few minutes. After about an hour the sun started to set, and we made our way to a camp.
Belly Dancing, Hookah, Camel Rides and More
The camp was a meeting place for all of the operating companies, and where they host the dinner and show. The camp is a large circle, lined with huts. The ground is all sand, so I would recommend walking barefoot. The tour package includes camel rides, dinner, and hookah. There is also a bar, which is cash. One can also pay 50 dirhams to smoke hookah at your table. Toilets are available, but very simple. Don’t expect the Ritz here.
As we arrived we were taken to our table. Traditional Arab dinner, sitting on pillows and a carpet on near the ground. We quickly snagged a few beers, and paid to get houka at the table. We attempted to ride a camel, but grew annoyed at the long line, and quickly retreated back inside.
Once dinner was announced, the entire place (around 200 people) all flocked to the buffet style line. The food was a mixture of both traditional Arabic food, with some western options for children. Overall, the food was OK, but certainly not the point of the trip. Once we had our food, we were treated to a belly dancing show, as well as a fire dancer. After this, we smoked the rest of our hookah and relaxed.
At the end of the show our driver came to our table, and told us that we would be leaving in a few minutes. We jumped into the car, and he took the hour ride back into the city of Dubai.
Overall, the experience was great. Seeing the vast nothingness of the desert was incredible. The dinner camp was a bit touristy, as these things typically are… overall a great time.
A few tips:
- Wear sandals. As one can expect, sand it everywhere, and quickly lodged in your shoes.
- If you get car sick easily, then try to sit in the front of the car.
- Bring cash. The outpost doesn’t take credit, nor does anyone at the camp.
- Dress in layers as temperatures go from extreme heat to cold.
Read the full list of Dubai travel tips, if you are planning on traveling to Dubai for the first time.