No visit to Dubai would be complete without a dining in the Arabian Desert experience. But doing it with a company operating with an ethos of conservation, environmental awareness and community upliftment is imperative. This desert safari was unlike most others… no convoys of vehicles, no dune bashing and no belly dancing. What you get with Platinum Heritage is authentic, staying true to Emirati culture – even down to the mode of transportation!
After arriving in the desert we were escorted to our vehicle… a beautifully restored 1950s, museum quality vintage Land Rover. The Land Rover is very much a part of the history of the UAE dating back to the late ‘50s when they were brought over by British troops. On their departure in the early ‘70s the Land Rovers were left behind and many became the first vehicle local Emirati’s had access to, often becoming community vehicles.
We couldn’t have found a more authentic ride than this to experience the desert and spot the wildlife found within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
We got to see a herd of Arabian Oryx, snatched back from probable extinction by valiant conservation efforts, as well as the elusive Arabian gazelle. Hamdy, our guide, pointed out the Sodom’s Apple (valued for its medicinal value by the Bedouin), Tamarisk and Ghaf trees and explained the detrimental effect that dune bashing has on the creatures and critters that reside just beneath the desert sand.
I was glad Platinum Heritage was committed to only using designated routes as determined by conservationists.
As the sun began its descent towards the distant dunes, we enjoyed a falconry display, glass of sparkling date juice in hand, and comfortably reclining on plump cushions and luxurious Persian rugs. I could have stayed here for hours were it not for the chill of the evening that was descending, as well as the anticipation of what lay ahead…
As the chill of evening began to descend we arrived at the Bedouin Camp.
The Bedouin Camp, which was gently lit with traditional lamps, treads lightly in this beautiful desert… by being solar powered (only using a generator as a back-up); using gravitational force in preference to pumps for its water; by sorting garbage on site – food waste gets composted for use as a mulch, and by purchasing for the long term, avoiding unnecessary wastage.
Much of the produce is sourced locally, which makes sense seeing as we were about to enjoy traditional Emirati cuisine, freshly prepared in an age old manner – we watched the wafer thin Raqaq (bread) being made, so delicious we went back for more; the yummy Shorbat Adas (lentil soup) was ladled out of a heavy cast iron pot and the incredibly tender Ouzi (whole roasted lamb) was retrieved from its charcoal pit where it had been cooking for 24 hours!
We dined in wonderful desert style, were entertained with traditional music and dance, gazed up at the stars… and I even got to ride a camel.