The absolute highlight of my recent trip to Dubai was an evening safari. This included “dune bashing,” getting to say hello face-to-face with the locals (camels,) and enjoying a traditional BBQ and meal under the stars in a small Bedouin camp. There are many commercial versions of this amazing adventure; our small party was fortunate to enjoy a more intimate, private version.
While our host reduced the pressure in the 4wd, critical to gain more traction on the sand, my crew admired the happy tenants of a dessert camel farm. One extremely friendly fellow popped her head right over the fence interested in checking us out as much as we wanted to her. She was super sweet and gentle. It was pretty magical. But this was the calm before the storm. Immediately following was an exhilarating, adrenaline pumping, ride across the dunes.We paused briefly between the adventure to bring our heart rate back down and to take in the incredible beauty of the dessert. Photos just can’t do justice to the majesty of the sand, the light and shadows, and the way the landscape is constantly reinventing itself.
My colleagues and I enjoyed watching the sun set over the dunes while our host set up camp. I am happy to say we were so absorbed from that point on that once the sun went down so did our cameras and phones. We were able to disconnect from our always plugged in lives and enjoy the company of each other, good conversation, and a fantastic meal of traditional mezze and for my buddies what was quickly claimed as the best BBQ lamb ever.
This past week was a Work Perk. A rare and wonderful opportunity to travel to Dubai for meetings with our local digital team. Was very lucky to squeeze in some outstanding memories of the city and build bonds with my team mates. The hospitality and kindness of my colleagues was very touching. We do so much work over email and the phone that you lose the sense of who the real person is on the other end. Trips like this are invaluable for getting to know each other, uncovering each of our rich personalities, and coming home with stories to reminisce over as time passes.
I was shocked with the amount of construction. The entire city is so new that it is hard to believe. And you can’t blink your eyes without seeing new construction underway. Its very rare that you get to experience the birth of such a city. It must be what if felt like when Rome or NYC were in their building booms. Everything is crisp and clean and BIG. The city has spared no expense at making everything extravagant.
Mixed in with the new you can find a touch of the old. A tour of Al Bastakiya at night gave us some flavor for the past before returning back to the ultra modern surroundings by the Westin Mina Seyahi.
Well and you can’t visit Dubai without saying hello to the World’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. I confess openly to a fear of heights, so was content to snap the building from the ground. At 2716.5 feet tall it also boasts of having the highest occupied floor in the World. I am not sure I could handle it.
Some days it is a toss up as to which cuisine I like better – Japanese or Lebanese. Having spent my school years in Dearborn, Michigan I got my taste for hommous at an early age. Well before it became a mainstream grocery staple like now. For our team dinner our hosts took us to Abd el Wahab which has a balcony overlooking the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall’s amazing fountain. The mezze was pretty darn tasty!!
The team was divided on the anise-flavored arak drink. Personally I liked it, but had to sip it in moderation. The samkeh harra was my favorite dish of the evening. Fish and tahina sauce with walnuts and almonds – yum, yum, yum, yum, yum.
I brought home a simple box of dates for my honey. There were plenty of camels, rugs and other Arabian knick-knacks to tempt us with as well. Given our time was short and limited to the hours after work, photos made the best keepsakes. The malls carry so many American and European name brands; they just weren’t very exciting. So we instead focused on the older part of town instead.
Sadly I couldn’t find a pair of Aladdin slippers in the right color and size for my big feet. My teammate Anna was a good sport to accompany me in my lengthy search. I went back to the hotel with a blister from all our walking. We never did manage to find the gold souk. We both used different map tools on our iPhone and Android. Both maps said we were standing right there – but I can promise you we were not.
I’ve saved the two most exciting adventures for last. I’ll post those in the coming days.
A photographic celebration of Hanami – 2 April 2012.