Every time I tell people I went dune bashing in Dubai, their first question is always, “What is dune bashing exactly?” The best way I can describe it is that it’s similar to off-roading, but instead of driving a pickup through the mud, you’re riding in a 4×4 SUV, driving up and over sand dunes at high speeds while hopefully not rolling off them. It isn’t really on our radar until Nevine and Markus tell us we should check it out.
Nevine, possibly the most helpful host ever, is able to call Arabian Nights to schedule a dune bashing experience for us for that evening, and use her Entertainer coupon to get us a buy one, get one free discount. Normally the cost of this tour is 300 dirhams ($80), but with the discount, we only pay 150 dirhams ($40) each. Included in the cost is the dune bashing followed by dinner in a traditional desert camp, a belly dancing show, henna, camel rides, sand boarding and a few other activities, depending on the company you go with.
We are picked up at 4 and stop to get one more couple (with their 1 year old daughter – more on that in a minute) before driving out to the sand dunes. After 30 minutes or so, we stop at a little convenience store to use the bathroom and buy anything else we might need. Just inside there are 3 or 4 guys selling the traditional headscarf worn by men in UAE. There are hundreds of people that stop here and this seems to be a hot ticket item. Smart move, scarf sellers. I manage to snap a photo of this guy taking a selfie of his new scarf.
After the market, we drive a little further into the dunes and pull over to see the views while the driver lets the air out of the tires. This helps the trucks drive through the dunes with better traction.
Once everyone in our group is here and all the tires are properly deflated, we’re on our way to bash some dunes!
It’s kind of hard to tell in these pictures, but there are some pretty crazy moments when I seriously think we were about to fall off the dunes or roll over. Our driver is top-notch though and nothing bad happens. You can see in the picture below just how sideways we go at some points.
Do you remember how we picked up the couple with the 1 year old? Well dune bashing isn’t exactly an activity young kids would enjoy. It’s rough, bumpy and scary, and that little girl screamed and cried for the entire ride. I felt so bad for her because she must have been terrified, and her parents did nothing to calm her down. I honestly couldn’t believe they thought it would be an enjoyable experience for her, not to mention how it would affect the experience of everyone else in the car. At one point, the driver pulled over to talk to them, but they only spoke French and didn’t under stand. Unfortunately, it kind of tainted an otherwise thrilling ride.
We spend about a half hour driving over the dunes before we stop to watch the sun set. It’s so beautiful, a sight that will never get old for me.
After the dunes are thoroughly bashed, we get back on the road and drive to the desert camp for dinner. I love the photo below, not just because of the colors, but because you can see how close the sand dunes come up to the road. It just cuts right through them and it’s rather surprising they aren’t covered with more sand.
Upon arriving, Maggie and I check out all the entertainment options before dinner. I wanted to do some sand boarding, but after watching a few other people give it ago, I decide against it. No one is able to get much momentum, and the hill is maybe 20 ft long. Not much fun, really. Maggie has never ridden a camel, so she tries that first. I rode a camel across the sand dunes in the Sahara on my trip to Morocco in 2009, so I stay back and take pictures for her.
Then she heads back inside to get a bit of henna done.
Finally it’s time to eat and watch the show. First is a man called ‘The Magician’ who spins around and around for at least 10 minutes, twirling his skirts and somehow manages to not throw up.
He has several members of the audience come up and try their hand (or feet) at spinning. No one manages more than about 10 seconds.
After the twirling, we have a 15 minute break before it’s time for some belly dancing.
At 845pm, it’s time to head out to be dropped off at our hotels. The experience has been fun, but a bit toursity. I enjoyed the dune bashing, even with the crying child in the back, but the rest of the the evening I would have been OK missing. The food was good, but everything else felt a bit contrived. Kids though (as long as they are old enough to enjoy the dune bashing part) would probably love this. There is definitely a lot to do to keep them entertained for the afternoon.