Monday, January 26, 2015

Dune Bashing and a Camel Ride

The day started with a pick up from the hotel. My driver/tour guide was the coolest person I've met on this trip so far. He made me wait for him to finish his cigarette before we started which I thought was amusing. He wore a trucker hat with Arabic writing on it and designer aviators. My unmarried status has drawn some criticism from more than one taxi driver/unwanted advice giver, but my main man Abbas ended that conversation with: "bachelor life, cool". The heart with an arrow shot through it etched on the back of his hand seemed fitting.

The future site of Universal Studios Dubai.

I told him my sob story about how I was unjustly robbed of my camel race by the death of Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Well he had a pretty good consolation prize for me: when we passed by the camel race track on the way out of town he would stop so we could check it out. I was the only person in this tour group and so I now had dictatorial powers. I shall rule this tour group benevolently.

I'm pretty sure this is Sheikh Mohammed, pretty much the king of Dubai.

And this is his son apparently.

The race track was way more exciting than anticipated. There were trainers there practicing with their camels!

We stopped and had a sandwich.

I saw this camel just walking along the road by itself and I asked if it was wild. Abbas looked at me like I'd just called him Susan. "Of course not! Camels are very expensive!" Sounds like somebody never got that camel they asked their daddy for.

We passed lots of camel farms along the way.

We continued along the desolate road until we came to a rest stop area with a few shops. He had someone put air in our tires while I entered one of the shops to poke around a bit. I got about 3 steps in before some guy tried the "shove a scarf on your head" routine again and that was the end of that. I waited in the car.

Once on the dunes, this guy was not messing around. He was taking the term "dune bashing" very seriously. Sand was spraying all over the windows like a car wash and I felt like we were going to tip over a couple times. It was awesome.

I felt a little silly for noticing but I couldn't stop talking about the sand. This wasn't just a bunch of yellow blobs like I'd expected. It was a pretty complicated palate. I'm going to use fancy color words like peach and cinnamon.

Abbas was generous with picture taking to an amusing degree. He had turned from badass to artist: "now I want you to turn to your side and jump with your legs bent so it looks like you're running". At one point we saw another group of tourists and I commented that they were doing the same jumping shots. "They aren't bending their legs right", the tortured perfectionist replied.

Don't I look like a desert angel?

I tried some sandboarding.

I was barefoot, and so sandboarding turned out to be a great way to get a lot of sand in my underwear in a really short amount of time.


"Dune bashing is finished sir. Did you enjoy the ride?"

Next we continued on to a place that rented dune buggies and other stuff like that. I was here for the camels. I'm not super familiar with camels apart from their delicious meaty flavor, so it was really cool to see them. The way they move is especially interesting.

I hopped on and we took a little stroll. When a fly was being especially annoying he would whip his long neck around and rub his head on his own back. That was a neat trick.

There were some locals watching tv in this traditional tent-type building so we paused for a spell.

My new buddy then drove me back to the city and that was that. I still had several hours to kill before flying to Oman so I did my best.

This was something on my to see list. The discreet "pork room" of many supermarkets houses all of the stuff that Muslims can't eat.

It was like a bacon/poptart speakeasy in there.

Really the only place I went to after that worth reporting was the Dubai Atlantis Hotel.

It was located on one of the artificial palm shaped islands off the coast.

This was like the king of Chihuly glass sculptures. I have to say that this Atlantis is better than the one we visited in the Bahamas during the infamous Operation Cruise Quitter.

I think that the UAE is a bit on the gaudy side of wealthiness. I've seen a lot of signs and advertisements referencing gold. A good example is this jewelry store in the airport sporting a palm tree made out of fake gold bars.

The Swiss Air flight from Dubai to Muscat, Oman was just how I like them: nearly empty.

By the time I walked out of the airport into Oman it was 1am, and my jet lagged self had been going to bed at 8pm every night, so I was not in the mood for the ridiculousness that followed.

It quickly became apparent that "do you need a taxi?" was the only complete English sentence that my taxi driver had mastered. He also pulled a classic maneuver known as "lying" when he told me he knew where my hotel was.

It was so much worse than that. He wasn't demonstrating the ability to even repeat the words "Best Western Hotel". I thought handing him my reservation printout might help. It did not help. He was running his finger along the paper Helen Keller style and sounding out the words. "Best Western, bro. You are physically killing me right now." His finger ran over the section where the printout invites you to "click here to view hotel."

Sure enough, once that finger hit "view hotel", bro was convinced that I needed to get to the View Hotel. I am not making this up. I finally got him to call the damn phone number on the printout and he asked them for directions to the View Hotel.

It was pretty cold out and was nighttime, but this guy's windows were tinted so dark that he had to periodically roll them down just to see the street signs. "Are you cold my darling?" he asked. I really hoped that was going to be an isolated misunderstanding, but no. This guy was just going to address me as "my darling" the whole way there.

We pulled up to the hotel and I got the hell out of that cab. The icing on the cake: Oman is a "no taxi meter" country. Boooo. Boo.

Mr. Darling did leave me with some parting wisdom though. "Oman is the most beautiful country, the people in Oman are the most beautiful, and everyone is welcome from Oman!" (He got "to" and "from" mixed up a lot.)

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