Desert safari

As you may glean from this post, my senses are still reeling from the wonderful sights and smells of the Middle East. With that, I have tons of photos and words that I want to put on this blog! Yesterday, I can’t decide to put out first so I just decided to do a series for every place I went to. But I will start now with the latest activity I, with a colleague and friend, did, which is the desert safari.

When I was in the thick of my travel preparations, I just knew that I had to do this. One because I haven’t been to real desert. And two, how many times in my life would I encounter a camel? So I asked a friend who works in a travel agency in Dubai to book us a trip. We forked over 130 dirhams or roughly PHp1,500, which I thought was not bad at all. It covered dune bashing, camel ride, shisha, henna tattoo, traditional Arabic buffet dinner, and some performances, including belly dancing.

We were picked up at our hotel by our Pakistani driver at around 3:30 p.m. Since there were only two of us, we had to share the 4×4 with two American guys. Thank God they weren’t the chit-chatty types so we basically kept to ourselves. The drive to, I suppose, what you call the Dubai countryside was quite scenic. In reality, all you see are the seemingly endless sand dunes. It was very relaxing in a way despite the sun beating down on the landscape.

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After about an hour’s drive, we turned off the highway into a smaller road that led to the dunes. From there, we were tossed like toys throughout the ride. But that’s where the fun lies, right? I couldn’t take pictures by then as I was concentrating too hard on not throwing up. haha. My tummy was hurling a lot. Thank goodness I ate hours before, or else I would be sick over all that wide expanse of sand.

It was great that they made several stops so we can enjoy the view and take souvenir shots.

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I loved it that we got to see the sun set. Nice!

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And then my most-awaited part. lol.

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I was bracing myself for a little discomfort since I was told that the camel’s back was bony. It was surprisingly comfortable actually. We lurched a little as it got up, and I was afraid for a minute that I was going to be thrown off its back. But the 5-minute ride around the paddock was uneventful albeit a bit smelly. One item off my bucket list, wheeeee!

The buffet and the show were a few stones’ throw from the camel enclosure. The sand has turned cool by this time as the hot day began turning into a cool night. We took seats at one of the set tables, and found that we had to sit cross-legged to have dinner and watch the shows at the center. The shisha, henna tattoo painting, trying on the traditional Arabic garb (which we wore for five days so it didn’t exactly excite us anymore), and other stores selling souvenir items were off to the sides where guests could enjoy them. We just sat, people-watched, and waited for the food and show, which took quite a while. I got a little impatient by then, my mind already halfway to the hotel where I had to do last minute packing for our very early flight back home the next day.

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I didn’t enjoy the food as much as I thought, and it took us forever to get home. But overall, the experience was truly memorable. I was very glad to do this. It doesn’t make sense when you’re in a foreign land, and you stay in your hotel or hit the malls. Super loved it!

Queen of the Nile

This mommy missed another school activity. Sad. But I was glad to see the photos her dad took, and was even gladder that she seemed to have fun. I bought the Egyptian get-up she was wearing just before I left for overseas knowing that the United Nations celebration is just around the corner. Last year, she donned a Mexican outfit. This time, given a free hand, we wanted an edgier garb so we settled for this. I didn’t want the usual Japanese kimono or the Chinese cheongsam readily available at the malls so I was glad to find this. Did you think black is bit much for a kid? She looks great! Her hair was a little disheveled but pretty nonetheless (stage mommy alert!). Plus, her flag is all wrong but the dad couldn’t find Egypt in the bookstores. But I don’t think anybody noticed.

Here is a video of their production number:

Some more photos with her classmates:

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Back from the desert

I’m back from the land of perpetual sand, heat, dates, and good-looking guys. I haven’t said much on this blog but I was totally apprehensive prior to my departure for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While far from being a jetsetter, I could say I have been around. However, this is the first time I will set foot in a foreign country that has a lot of restrictions. Truth be told, being a woman, I initially feared for my safety because of the numerous reports of abuse and crimes inflicted on Filipino women. Nevertheless, armed with years of traveling and professional experience, confidence, my gadgets, my abaya and hajib, and other whatnots, off I went to that arid part of the world.

Turns out, as with my other foreign trips, I went back chock full of new memories, fresh insights and learning I will forever treasure. My senses were on high alert as I savored and absorbed everything I saw, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. It was a total feast! I cannot of course, cram all of that in one go so I am chopping my posts in pieces, and hopefully, I get to cover everything–from the food, to the places we stayed in; from the peculiarities of other cultures, to the feeling of home because of the ubiquitous Filipino everywhere I turn.

In all those four cities I visited–Jeddah and Yanbu in Saudi, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, I was sure to bump into a kababayan. I now realized that it is true: that the Filipino has gone global! I have been studying and eating and drinking and breathing the phenomenon of Filipino migration in almost thirteen years now. And I have conducted dialogues with Filipino communities worldwide, but seeing the diaspora in the Middle East has brought it to a whole different level. I have never seen them almost run a foreign country! It may be a little exaggerated but I thought that so many establishments and companies will greatly suffer should the Philippines pull out its numbers. Really. I think Filipinos are that important. They may get other expatriates to run their businesses but they will never get the same results as when Filipinos have run them. Never get the same competence, care and compassion. They make businesses and industries thrive in their own unique ways. They need not pretend, put on fake accents, or try to integrate hard or blend in. They just do naturally. Too bad, they aren’t doing it for their own country. It was really an eye opener for me. I never felt more Filipino pride when outside the country than during these last two weeks.