Ann and Roger Bould were recently in the oil-rich kingdom on the Persian Gulf. Here is the third instalment of their adventures. (For Parts 1 and 2, see August16 and 17.)
Off through the city
As with the other driver, he pointed out the features of the newest part of Dubai:
- the indoor sky diving building, t
- he camel racing track (10 kilometres per lap – the members of the racing club watch the races on TV from the air conditioned comfort of a fully enclosed grandstand),
- the new buildings under construction for Expo 2020, which sounds a bit like the Dubai equivalent of Russia getting the World Cup.
At one point, the driver got on the phone (don’t worry, he wasn’t weaving about – he just took both hands off the wheel to dial up) and a couple of minutes later he stopped at a roadside food bar and picked up a food bag and a cup of coffee.
The phone call wasn’t to order the food, it was to let Control know that’s why he was stopping. Seems Government vehicles have a unique identity chip, which lets them know where they are and how fast they’re going at any time. He was quite comfortable with it – it is what it is . . .
Into the desert
We turned on to one of the highways into the desert. There are two highways, about 100 metres apart. The first one was a bit twisty and turny so the sheikh’s family members asked the sheikh if he could see his way to doing a straight one.
He was financial enough to say yes, so today we had the benefit of a high speed highway (but stay under 120, OK?) with just a little fine sand drifting across it.
Just under half an hour from the start, we got to the desert proper. Let half the air out of the tyres, check in at the gate with a guy carrying a clipboard (safety, I decided, in case someone gets lost out there and they have to go looking for him. Or us).
Not much chance of getting lost, actually. We were the lead vehicle of about 20 or 30 4WD vehicles. Once we were off the access road, we hit the dunes. At speed. up and down, in line astern, on slopes close to 40 degrees from the horizontal. It was a lot of fun. Also it was clear our driver loves his job. And he gets to do it every day. For pay. Wow!
The oasis and falcons
We all got out and were treated to a falconing display for a short time. The falconer was good. He explained falcons can get up to 300 kilometres per hour by folding their wings and going into a high speed dive. And you thought a cheetah was the Fastest animal. Huh!
These falcons aren’t native to Dubai. They come from cold northern countries, and don’t tolerate heat very well. A falcon is carried around in air conditioned comfort in its own car. When it’s outside and sitting on the falconer’s arm, he has to give it a spray from a water bottle now and then, to keep it cool.
(More on the falcons next time!)