Arabian Nights

OK, so this one isn't really going to be a helpful flying destination, nor any use to you whatsoever really ... but it's raining outside today; it's the middle of January in Australia, too bloody hot to be outback, so I thought I'd share an old travel story of mine - from that hedonistic and euphoric era when we were allowed overseas holidays ...

It all began on our whistle-stop layover in Dubai a few years ago. On the hunt for inspired local experiences, Rossy and I uncovered a fun looking 4WD adventure called the Desert Sundowner. Our first mistake was forgetting that, in this land of abstinence, it was actually going to be minus the liquid sundowner. Upon being reminded of this disappointing local custom, I have to say the imminent TripAdvisor review was starting to lose a star or two. It went something like this.

Aiaiz, the madman at the helm of our 4WD, had done this before. With his favourite playlist cranked up to full volume, he roared us over the desert sand dunes in convoy with 35 other equally insane Arabian carloads, all of whom knew one driving speed, starting and ending with break-neck. Sixty degree terrain inclines either up or down seemed not to phase Aiaiz and if they were on a deadly sideways angle, then all the better apparently. 

With mountains of red sand flying over the windows and onto the at-times vertical roof, Aiaz was clearly enjoying himself, all the while making these maniacal gurgling sounds from a very wide grinning face. I felt I should be asking this fellow a million probing questions, starting with his early childhood.

In hindsight, the infrastructure of roll-bars on the inside of the vehicle should have given me a clue upon embarkation. In any case, I'm sure the detailers back at head office had no trouble restitching the divots in my leather hand-hold.

I have no clue what the single mum and 12 year old daughter in the back of our vehicle thought of it all. Of Ukrainian descent, neither had an ounce of English, which made for some spirited sign language from me when Aiaz screeched at us to fasten our seat belts and hang on.

We eventually jack-knifed to a stop in a mountain of swirling sand and, though I was beyond caring, we were still alive. We'd pulled up with the other hundred tourist vehicles at the "Bedouin Camp". It was time for dinner. Given that the last half hour had relocated my stomach up to my chin, I could hardly wait.

I would tell you all about what we ate, but to this day I have no idea. I must say the camp was right on trend with the less-is-more theme. Did I mention 44 degrees and no shade? Not being ungrateful, just wondering if I'd mentioned it. On offer for us and our thousand fellow revellers, were festive camel rides, trial Falcon flights and henna tattoos ("Veddy special price for you madam! May I suggest the full-hand Desert Palm with enrichments?") 

So from the comfort of our 1983 Persian cushions on the toasty Arabian sand, it was show time. Up first was Monique, a very pretty 15 y.o. blonde belly dancer whose wriggling dance-belt certainly got the attention of the three husbands from Texas beside us. I'm not sure that little Monique had shared her choice of vacation job with her mum, but she was having lots of fun. She was followed on stage by a guy wearing six baskets on his head and a magical lit-up dress that, in time with the music, turned into an umbrella, a flying saucer and a spinning wheel. I think Rossy wanted one.

The temp had dropped to 39 by the time the sun went down so there was rejoicing all round. Sort of more like an enthusiastic furnace than the timeshare in hell we'd had at 5pm. By this stage, Rossy had made friends with the lead camel, and was helpfully assisting the 25 year old French tourist with the hot-pants, hot tan and in-your-face hot cleavage, to get herself into a safe ergonomic position atop her camel for the next expedition. Because he knows so much about that.

Back at the pop-up desert bazaar, I'm eyeing off the chainsaw, ready to end my life if one more dodgy vendor approaches me with his unique brand of nightmare offering. I never thought I'd want to get back into that 4WD with Fangio but even that was starting to look good.

Thank you Dubai. In all honesty, nights like this make the world go round.

1 Comment

  1. David

    I’m in hysterics, Shelley. Excellent story! More please.

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