Wednesday, March 19, 2014

day 3: safari i'm not sorry

We packed a lot into Tuesday. As we became more familiar with Dubai's layout, our planning & navigating improved. And again, we had a completely diverse experience from beginning to end on day 3. We woke up early that morning to head to Lime Tree Cafe - a favorite among expats. It wouldn't be right to come to Dubai without checking out some of the expat hangouts since that is such a big part of Dubai's culture. Lime Tree did not disappoint, al fresco dining at its best.

i love a savory breakfast
fresh fruit smoothies and juices were all over Dubai. i was totally ok with this. 

After breakfast, we walked over to the Jumeirah Mosque for their public tour. It's the only mosque in Dubai that is open to the public. It turned out to be less of a tour and more of an Islamic cultural talk. I was fine with that because the mosque itself wasn't much to look at. I know embarrassingly little about the Muslim faith and culture so I found the hour-long talk to be interesting and informative.

learning how to properly wash before entering the mosque
shoes off. head covered. let's do this.

prayer demonstration

Hearing the call to prayer each day and watching Muslims' devotion to religion was both challenging and sad. Would I wake up every day before dawn to pray? Probably not. Ok, definitely not. I value sleep more than I should. So in that sense, it was challenging. On the other hand, I'm saddened by their false belief in a works-based faith. It reminded me even more of how miserably I would fail if my salvation were based on my own works. I'm so directionally challenged, I'm not even sure I could figure out which way to face toward Mecca (although there is an app for that). I'm so thankful for grace and mercy.

Here is part of a call to prayer that I recorded from Rob's balcony:

I digress. After the mosque visit, we headed to Safa Park. Here is one thing I didn't expect in Dubai - green! Dubai is full of sprawling parks. They also grow flowers (almost exclusively petunias) all over the place. I repeat, they grow flowers in sand. Lots of flowers. I don't even want to know what they spend on water.

the world's tallest building hanging out in the clouds
oh hey, jon was on this vacation too 
and here's why he wasn't in most photos - he was too busy taking them
just strolling in the park


more flowers
flowers everywhere

We walked around the park, and stopped at a little cafe for a light lunch and some more al fresco dining. I had my 2nd fruit smoothie of the day.

i'm not sure what's more exciting - the fruit smoothie or the croissant 

It was time to head back to the apartment so we could prepare for our desert safari. This goes on the list of things we actually did book before arriving in Dubai. Most people choose a dune-bashing experience, but I had visions of Jon turning green in the back seat of a cramped SUV so we went with the more genteel open-top vintage land rover option. I'm so glad we did.

Our guide Semah picked us up around 4 p.m. and we were off. We were paired with a lovely British couple. They were enjoying their second week of vacation. Jealous. Since you stay with your group the entire time, it was nice that we got along with our new companions. Desert safaris in Dubai are what I would consider a "Disney experience." It's not exactly real or authentic, but it sure was fun!

After arriving at the desert conservation area, we switched from van to land rover and from tourist to turban. I looked absolutely ridiculous in mine, but it served its purpose of keeping my hair from flying all over the place.

away we go!

Semah liked to drive fast so we ended up getting the best of both worlds - a fun ride over the dunes without the motion sickness. We stopped to climb up the dunes, take some photos, and learn about the plants and animals that helped the Bedouin people survive in the desert. All of this was happening near sunset so we had the added bonus of watching a beautiful sunset over the dessert.

desert animals

Semah told me to jump so i jumped
running up sand dunes = big fun

Our next stop was a falconry show. Falconry is huge in Dubai. It's an expensive endeavor (sport?) so no wonder it's popular in Dubai. A falconry show is basically just watching a falcon hunt for & catch his "prey." Turns out falcons are pretty fast so I was adequately impressed.

The last stop was the desert camp. It came complete with very nice, modern bathrooms (like I said, Disney), tents/carpets for eating, and a host of activities. Dinner was lamb, rice, chicken, and a bunch of other traditional desert dishes that I'm failing to remember. It was all very good. After dinner, we enjoyed the entertainment of a traditional Arabian dancer. We also went on a camel ride, smoked some shisha (Don't worry, Mom, shisha doesn't make you high - it's just fruity, flavored tobacco smoked in a water pipe), and I got a henna tattoo.

only Jon would find diet coke in the desert

We got home around 10:30 p.m. - slightly sandy & fully exhausted. It's a good thing we had a lazy morning planned for the next day….or not.

Bonus: Desert Outtake! The safari company took some "official" photos before we got started. They had 3 set poses they insisted on doing. They were so eager that I couldn't say no. The end result is a series of slightly awkward, but mostly hilarious photos that feature my "this is really dumb & corny" face.


  1. Thanks for writing such a detailed review. I'm really enjoying experiencing the trip with you as you write it out.

    Special thanks for the info on the dessert safari. I thought about taking one with our two year old since the tour company indicated it would be fine for a toddler but seeing this, I'm not so sure. Makes it a lot easier now that you share what you experienced.