Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Sand Sea

Morning in the desert is special.  It feels that everything is new again probably a bit like in the snow, for the wind overnight had erased all signs of civilisation from the sand dunes at the same time slightly altering their shape.  Or maybe that was just my imagination but certainly all the footsteps had gone.

The big dune

We had an action packed day planned starting with archery followed by some camel trekking and ending up with an Arabian banquet outside in a tent.

The archery was fun.  We met another young couple for the archery who were very interesting and reminded us of the amazingly complex, cosmopolitan world that we live in.  From Dubai, the husband, Noor, was an Egyptian who lived in Montreal whilst his wife, Emma, was a half-English, half Lebanese ex-lawyer now converted Muslim parachute instructor who was dressed in the full costume (including the black Abaya) but with sneakers on.  Really.

By the end we were aiming at that wood frame in the distance and getting our arrows half way up the dune behind!  We still couldn't hit the targets.

Noor's father had decided to send him to Canada to get his papers there as the situation in Egypt was so dodgy and with 5 years under his belt, that is not far away.  His sisters are there now too for the same reason.  He provided some interesting/worrying insight into the difficulties facing young middle eastern men such as him in the west; the profiling, the distrust, etc.  Noor conceded that he understood where that came from but being on the receiving end it was quite upsetting and dispiriting.  It made me think particularly in the recent aftermath of those horrific Paris shootings that less stable young men could easily turn to the dark side.

He was also quite an instructor seeing as our guide was as useless as a lump of lead and showed us how to set up, arm and shoot arrows using the bows provided.  We ended up by shooting arrows at the longest distance possible (some 50 yards probably) which showed just how difficult this archery thing really was.

Perfect style!  Now lets just aim it in the right direction...

I know, in 10,000 hours we'd achieve mastery.  So only another 9,999 to go!


As we had some time before our camel experience we decided to walk to the top of that big dune we overlooked from our room.  This would mean putting into action our newly discovered talent for climbing on sand.

The first thing we discovered was the endless possibility for getting sand in your shoes.

Viv would stop every 10-15 minutes or so and empty her shoes. I couldn't understand this as once empty, sand would get in her now empty shoes all over again meaning she would stop and repeat the process.

Being dry (it only rains once every couple of years or so) the sand is very fine and gets absolutely everywhere!

The second thing we discovered was that it was a long way up.

Long way back too -- that's the resort in the background and a wadi down to the right

We had seen people climb up the dunes but had not connected the dots about the figures we had seen      at the start and the specks we could barely see at the summit.  In books and on TV I can remember reading and hearing people talk about "false summits" when climbing.  From our room's balcony we couldn't see the detail too much but in person there were very many summits, and last bits, and just a few more steps and we're there before we reached somewhere near where it looked as though it could be finally the summit.

Not quite there yet...

And then it was.  And quite a view it was too.  We could see.... even more sand dunes in every direction extending out to the horizon.

Top of the world, well dune...

Coming down was a breeze though, thankfully.  45 minutes up, 10 minutes down.  Leaving plenty of time to spend by the pool before our camel adventure.


The camel party was bigger than the others we experienced.  Lots of German speakers too.  But when we found the camels parked in the desert, we discovered that of course they'd counted and there were precisely enough camels to go around.

The camel park in the middle of nowhere.  They must have known we were coming.

My camel was called Amman and unlike the others he didn't want to get up until the others were ready to head off.  They are social creatures and like to follow other camels which makes them easy to train.  The guides tied all the camels together and we set off tramping away whilst they provided running commentary.

Great sunset in the desert

Dromedaries with one hump, very loyal and hard working but stubborn, very long memory that can hold a grudge for years, able to walk for 30-40 days without water or food, you name it our guides told us all about them.  Certainly not vicious and apparently very good to eat with very mild milk (that bit is true), their fur was quite soft and they were also quite cuddly.

We finished up wishing we'd opted for the longer tour but it did mean we had plenty of time to think about the Arabian banquet that the resort had set out in the desert with all the traditional Arab mezzes and food. It was still cold so we opted for inside the tent next to a large emirati family.

As for the food, the mezzes were the usual hummus, tabbouleh, etc and the mains were the usual barbeque, koftes, lamb chops and beef steak.  Very nice too it was and it turned out that Noor and Emma (from archery) had also thought this a good idea and seated themselves next to us for some more fun conversation.  And of course food.  It turns out that this was Noor's birth week so Emma had put together a week of UAE desert resorts for him as he missed the desert being in Montreal where it was currently minus 20!

Quite understandable.  I will suggest something similar to Viv next month when it is my birthday.

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