The first weekend of September H & I headed out for our anniversary to the Al Maha Desert Resort here in Dubai. A friend of his told him about this really cool place in the middle of the Dubai Conservation Reserve. It sounded like the perfect place for us so we jumped on it. We arrived at the gates into the reserve a few minutes early and was directed over to a staging area for guests. We were not allowed to drive ourselves to the resort area. After a short wait our guide Matthew arrived in a 4×4 to pick us up and we headed into the desert. After a short 5 mile drive we pulled up at a little oasis smack dab in the middle of nowhere. They took us straight to our villa and allowed us to get comfortable. The private villas at the Al Maha were built to simulate an anciet Bedouin camp. There were antique carpets, chests, dishes, & various bits & bobs from the desert nomad times which surprisingly ended only 20 years ago.
Our view from the private infinity pool was surreal. It was hard to believe that this isolated desert where the beautiful Oryx roam freely was 45 minutes away from the busy city of Dubai. We opted to take a small desert tour that evening in one of the resorts 4×4 with our personal guide Matthew who is from South Africa. He drove us through some small dunes and pointed out a few of the animals that live in the reserve. The main masterpiece of the reserve is the Oryx or what the locals call the Al Maha. They are truly one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve laid eyes on. They were on the verge of extinction due to uncontrolled hunting by the locals when a handful were trapped and sent to Arizona. Under careful supervision they prospered and their ancestors roam the desert again today. Along with the Oryx the tiny Arabian gazelle graze the clumps of fireweed & acacia trees that are scattered across the desert. H & I were also lucky enough to spot a Spiney Tailed Lizard right behind our villa. I was far too chicken to chase after him for a good photo but H was game. During the nomad times this lizard was paralyzed by the Arabs, with a precise pop of the neck, and carried through the desert for food.
After our short tour we went back to our room and enjoyed a lovely dinner. The next morning we were up with the sun and getting ready to go dune bashing. We met up with our group once again guided by Matthew and headed through the reserve and into the neighboring Emirate Sharjah. On our way to the dunes we spotted 20 or more camels roaming around. There was a small camel farm located near the dunes. Matthew let it be known that he is not fond of camels because of the destruction they cause the already fragile desert. They are lazy animals and will stay in one area until the vegetation is completely consumed leaving nothing for the Oryx & gazelle. Owning camels now is purely for the status symbol. The more camels you have the more money you are thought to have as well. I however squealed with glee every time I spotted another camel! We didn’t have time to stop for a photo of each camel because there were dunes to conquer.
We had a blast! It wasn’t as thrilling as we expected but it was fun. The dune were magnificent and a beauty I have never experienced before. I never thought I would find sand beautiful but it was magical and certainly God’s ever changing work of art. I hope we get to go back this winter to experience the desert on horseback at sunset.