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The desert storm: Arabian Nights edition

Dune bashing in UAE is safer than at any other place. When perks like camel milk, stories of rattle snakes get mixed, it’s a master blend in Abu Dhabi

Suchayan Mandal | Abu Dhabi |

There’s some kind of magic about the winter of Abu Dhabi. You would never be able to feel it. It’s December morning when Delhi’s mercury has dipped to a spine chilling one. But at 10 o’clock in the morning, Abu Dhabi is already heating up at 26 degrees Celsius. We are heading to Arabian Nights Village, a resort built to recreate traditional culture and desert villages in the Emirates. Right after we are done with our early lunch, eight second generation Land Cruiser cars start queuing up at the porch of the hotel. The tourists hurry up to get the best seat. So people in the codriver’s seat and second row are better off than the poor fellows in the third row, which has absolutely no view. I knew the trick and settled myself beside Zahid, our chauffeur-cum-adventure guide for the day. It’s a revamped Land Cruiser, which means the interior has been compromised to give it a “rowdy vehicle” look, rather than a plush one.

Metallic rods have been installed overhead for convenience of holding. However, I am not sure if that tampers with the safety of the vehicle that would put up an amazing show in the middle of the desert.

Zahid is a cheerful chap from Karachi, settled in Abu Dhabi for the last 15 years. Having gotten used to the better things in life, he has no intention of going back. The air conditioner was blowing at full speed and so was Zahid’s feet on the gas pedal. From the city to Arabian Nights Village, the distance is 128 kms. But going by Zahid’s speeding skill and the super road quality, it shouldn’t take more than 1 hour 10 minutes.

We reached the resort in a little over an hour. We were served Arabic coffee to relieve our tiredness of the journey. Wow! A black coffee actually got me better, exclaimed the masala chai heart in me. And that’s when Zahid hurried us up for the dune bashing adventure.

Dune bashing is basically the chauffeur showing you his driving skills on the vast stretch of Abu Dhabi desert. Well it’s not that vanilla. It’s adventurous, fun and involves a lot of adrenaline. After driving us through a couple of miles, the car just took a sharp turn and we were in the sand. There wasn’t much movement initially. Five minutes passed and one could feel the wheels are wrestling with the soft sand. In front we could see hillock after hillock of sand. These hillocks are built when wind flows and amasses a lot of sand at one place. Slowly the car starts climbing one of them. The sand underneath being soft, the wheels tend to slip.

And that’s the fun. The car is now speeding at 120-150 km/h on the sand. There is sand everywhere ~ from the windscreen to the roof. The sand hills start getting higher. The entire movement is uphill and downhill like those adventure rides at amusement parks. The only difference is its sand here and this is for real.

The car often takes sharp turns, thereby making one feel like being thrown off the seat. But the adrenaline rush is something that stops us from asking the driver to stop. More fun gets added when one sees similar cars in front, from which one can gauge the adventure you are undergoing.

Finally the car screeches to a halt in middle of the desert ~ the sunset point. While everywhere around is just brown sand, one can get the best view of the sun setting. This is also the place, probably, the most Instagram-friendly in terms of the beautiful photos one can click.

Soon after, we made our way towards a small camel village. These villages can be spotted anywhere in the desert, where men rear camels for games and farming.

One needs to be very cautious if one is stepping off the car at these villages. With the sun down, the sand has started cooling off and that’s when rattle snakes and scorpions begin their hunt. We could see a tail-trail of a scorpion right in front of the camel village entrance.

The adventure didn’t end yet. With the sun coming down, it was an opportunity to meet the ships of the desert. And taste the milk of camel. It was salty with an odd odour.

With the darkness enveloping the desert, it seemed like middle of nowhere. No matter how fast one drives back, the inky darkness of the surrounding, the thrill of sand and the wailing flute music of the Bedouins will continue to haunt.