Go On a Desert Safari
R acing over endless sand with the engine whining at full throttle, the all-terrain vehicle which I commandeered hungrily gobbled up kilometer after kilometer of flat but rutted sand while I sped across part of the open Sahara Desert; and my thumb turned yellow as it kept pressing the lever to its limit, wanting more.
Tightly holding on to the grips on the handle bars, the vehicle bounced around ever which way — but I hung onto the bucking bronco of a machine as we entered a range of small mountains.
Rocks in the way? I purposely went over them; not around them. Soft sand sprayed away from the four oversized knobby rubber doughnuts which dug into loose dunes on turns effortlessly. The wind blew fiercely as my adrenaline spiked; smoke and sand everywhere…
…and it was incredibly exhilarating.
On the return trip, the winds picked up significantly to the point where sand continuously pelted my helmet and stung my skin, with the feeling of being pricked by thousands of little needles — which is the reason why I was strongly advised to wear a shemagh before embarking on my outing, as shown in the photograph both on the left and in this “teaser” of an article which I posted on Thursday, June 4, 2015.
This experience was part of what is known as a desert safari — which can come in many forms and variations and is offered in a number of countries in the Middle East — and I chose one which lasted three hours. The one on which I participated comprised of traveling approximately 15 kilometers to a site where participants can ride a camel, have a cup of Bedouin tea, learn some information about the Bedouin lifestyle, and smoke from a hookah. Longer variations include a barbecue dinner, a show comprised of belly dancers, and even viewing indigenous fauna in a terrarium.
I had originally wanted to experience an overnight version of a desert safari while I was in Oman earlier this year; but the options which interested me were already sold out. They included sleeping in an authentic Bedouin tent under the stars out in the desert itself as well as included dinner and breakfast — but you had to pay a significant amount of extra funds to be brought out onto the soft sand dunes in a vehicle equipped with four-wheel drive, as regular vehicles cannot negotiate the sand and would surely get stuck.
On the experience on which I embarked, I purchased a shemagh at a local shop for fewer than 50 Egyptian pounds; or approximately $6.50. If you do not want to rent the goggles for 20 Egyptian pounds to protect your eyes, bring protective eyewear which you would not mind being scratched by sand in case strong winds blow while speeding out on the desert sands.
I arrived at the bank of all-terrain vehicles which awaited their riders…
…and I chose my bad boy…
…and off we went into the desert. I do not know how fast we went — nor did I care. It was just what I needed at that moment.
When we arrived at the site, I met a new friend.
I pet the camel on the head as I mounted it. Its fur was scrubby and surprisingly rough; but at least it did not gurgle that grumbly growling deep noise which I did not know camels uttered when annoyed until I heard it at the pyramids when a tout was attempting to get his camel to stand up and walk. I am especially grateful that this camel did not spit on me.
Disappointed that I was unable to do so out in the middle of the Australian outback years ago, I finally got my chance to ride a camel.
“You going for a camel ride…” was what Margita — a reader of The Gate — guessed. Your guess was the closest, Margita — but I would not have purchased and worn a shemagh simply for the camel ride. It was for protection from the sand during the ride on the all-terrain vehicle out in the desert.
You could purchase a cold drink or some other item at the “supermarket”, if it is not included in the price of your desert safari.
I did take a sip of tea — it was hot and bland, which was fine by me as I dislike tea in general — but I did not partake in the use of the hookah, as I was not interested in that.
It was time to head back on the all terrain vehicle — but not before going through what felt like a sandstorm before it was time to return to the resort at which I was staying on the shore of the Red Sea…
…and I can say that this safari was distinctly different from the safari on which I experienced earlier this year in Kenya — no elephants or cheetahs here, for example — and yes, I still have many more photographs to post in future articles from that safari.
Desert safaris can start as low as $28.00 per person — not including gratuities, of course — and they could easily reach $200.00 per person if you decide to add more options and spend more time on them. Although I participated in one near Hurghada in Egypt, variations of desert safaris can also be found in such countries as Oman and the United Arab Emirates. They are also numerous and easy to find — either via a search on the Internet or through the hotel or resort property at which you are staying.
I recommend experiencing one if you are in a country where one is offered.
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.