Family fun in Dubai: Discover traditions in the desert

Take to the desert and enjoy breakfast in a Bedouin camp.

By Emma Thomson
Published 5 Feb 2016, 08:00 GMT, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 11:16 BST
A camel.

A camel.

Photograph by Platinum Heritage

"And action!" are the words I half expect to hear as we cruise among the bosomy dunes aboard a vintage open-top 1950s Land Rover. The wind funnels through my hair and it all feels rather glamorous as we drive around the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a 40-minute drive southeast of the metropolis.

Hamad, our guide, cajoles the gear stick to slow the car as we pass an Arabian oryx — one of 70 released into the reserve — surveying us coolly from atop a dune. Further up, a clutch of Arabian gazelles cluster around a water trough.

Soon we arrive at an elaborate Bedouin camp. We're welcomed with a cup of smoky coffee and dates, and seated upon carpets and cushions. Then out comes a breakfast feast of honey-drizzled pancakes, oregano bread, and balet (noodles with egg, saffron and sugar). We're just finishing up as flustered whispers whip around camp. Mohammed, our Bedouin guide, has arrived.

His chequered red-and-white keffiyeh headdress falls around his shoulders and on his nose, a shiny pair of Ray-Bans. He sits on a high-backed chair and tells us tales of the desert until two teenage boys arrive with a trio of camels for us to ride. The dromedaries grumble like granddads as they kneel down for us to clamber aboard.

Lurching over the dunes, I recall something Mohammed said: "You see the sand is darker, the closer you get to the mountains, and yellow and white close to the sea." But to my untrained eye, it's just a mesmeric mass of quiet desert. Safari breakfast tours from AED295/395 (£51/£68) child (5-11 years)/adult.

Published in the Dubai supplement, distributed with the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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