It is an incongruous notion to think of life when imagining a desert environment. When, in the past, I’ve heard the word desert, I’ve conjured up an image of a vast, empty expanse of nothing but scorched sand. No life. When I’ve pictured in my mind an oasis, my imagination envisioned a tiny version of a rain forest dropped down randomly in the middle of a desert landscape. When I’ve pictured myself riding a camel in the Arabian desert, I’ve seen myself gracefully climb with ease onto the camels back; silk kaftan floating in the breeze and riding away into the sunset, in a perfectly color-corrected end scene of a classic film.
My recent trip into the desert in Dubai corrected all of those long-held imaginings. There is life to be found in a desert. Mountain gazelles, Oryx, birds, spiders and the odd tree whose leaves can be rolled and smoked to alleviate the symptoms of asthma. (Again, incongruity.) Shrubs with numbing and antiseptic properties are found here and there, if you know where and what to look for. As it turns out, I wasn’t as graceful (understatement) as I wanted to be while riding a camel and I didn’t wear a silk kaftan, but I was still able to check a few things off of my bucket list. (My only other experience riding a camel took place at the Memphis Zoo and I was, in fact, in a dress; a choice I later regretted.) Also, to my surprise, it was not 120 degrees.
January is the time to visit Dubai and I was grateful that I grabbed a shawl before I left the hotel in the morning as it only, after a chilly morning, reached the 80’s during our desert safari. I did see an oasis, but it wasn’t the lush Amazonian scene I imagined. The trees, one whose roots grow 60 meters down into the ground, were sprinkled sparsely on the landscape.
Thanks to Platinum Heritage Luxury Tours and Safaris, we were able to learn about the history and importance of falconry in the U.A.E. We rode camels. We watched the sand change colors as the sun changed position in the sky. A falcon, to the surprise of his keeper and us, flew inches away from the top of our heads. When not on camels, we were driven through the reserve in one of my dream vehicles, a 1950’s vintage Land Rover. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is the desert putting its best foot forward. Desert for beginners. This was a dream experience and one that I can only explain in pictures.