Today we were up around 8:30 again and after another great breakfast, we headed off to AUD. Today we got to listen to another speaker who informed us about the different certifications (such as LEED and estimada) and what Dubai has been doing to help increase recycling around the city. After her lecture, we sat through a great “case study” led by Chiragh. He first showed us a fascinating TED talk about how humans essentially make their homes their own, but in accordance with their environments. We then had a discussion about which way influence runs (i.e. do cities influence the people who live in them, or do the people who live in cities influence the cities?)
After another great lunch, we had a little time to kill before our desert safari, so Nada offered to take some of us Harvard students on the Metro. Like I’ve been saying all along, Dubai is actually a city from the future. First of all, the metro stations are these sleek, gold buildings. Then there are the trains themselves, which provide the smoothest ride (and I believe are automatically operated). It’s somewhat like Disneyworld, since the Metro goes above the city (and is therefore a great way to get an overview of the city and to (try) to get a feel for where everything is in relation to each other).
We then were met by four cars in the AUD parking lot that would be taking us on our desert safari. Now when I heard “desert safari” I didn’t quite know what to expect – deserts don’t really have anything to see in them (besides maybe a camel here and there), so I was confused as to what we would be doing. We drove on the highway for about an hour and soon our road just ended and our driver nonchalantly just started driving right onto the sand. Actually, this whole process reminded me a bit of the Boston duck-boats – one moment you’re on a road, the next moment you just aren’t!
Our driver then got out and started deflating our tires (which actually made sense – in order to drive on the sand, we would want as large a tire surface area as possible). He got back in and then we were OFF. And by off, I mean driving/flying over dunes (literally). We had a very skilled driver who took us over and around a the sand dunes at varying speeds. We started off screaming at every turn, but as time went on, it actually became more enjoyable – somewhat like a very sandy roller coaster.
We got out about 20 minutes later and took some pictures. I (and some of the other AUD and Harvard students) also got to run down some dunes, which was incredibly fun (and fast). We got back into the cars and continued driving/safari-ing.
A little while later, we arrived at a large campsite-like area. It turns out that there are probably a dozen or so companies that do these desert safaris and they all drop off their clients here (i.e. in a random, somewhat developed part of the desert!)
This place was pretty nice, though – it had about 30 tables (without chairs – instead we got to sit on pillows!) around a big circular stage. Outside of the tables were different shops selling trinkets and there was also a food station and bathrooms. Beyond the main campsite, there were gorgeous dunes to walk around and watch the sun set from.
Riding on camels at the campsite was such a cool experience. It’s kind of like riding a horse, but their hump allows to people to easily ride one camel. I rode one with Emilia and it was quite the experience (especially since as the camel stands up or sits down, it jerks you forward or backward pretty abruptly!)
I then headed into the campsite and got a henna tattoo. I am obsessed with henna and the woman who did it literally made a gorgeous rose in about a minute. I wandered around for a bit, and one of the storeowners let me wear part of a belly dancing costume for the night! I then went back and got more henna on my ankle.
Soon it was time for dinner, which was pretty good, although not really classic Emirati food (it was more like Indian food, and a lot of the tourists were Indian). We then watched a very interesting show. The first performer was a man wearing a dress that lit up (which produced a very cool effect when he spun around). This was followed by an incredibly strange puppet show, and a rather lukewarm belly-dancing performance. All in all, it was a great night, though, especially because we got to experience so much in the course of one night!
After the safari, Priyanka, Katini, Emilia, Wael and I went in Nada’s car, got McDonalds ice cream, and just cruised around. We dropped Wael off at his house and then had a blast singing (to lucky random strangers in cars passing by!)
TGT: 1) Riding a camel! 2) Going on the Metro and seeing Dubai from a different perspective 3) Sand safari-ing
Until next time,