Today, we’ll head over to the beautiful red sand dunes of the Arabian Desert where “A Whole New World” is waiting...for you and meeeeee.
But alas, our magic carpet is at the cleaners, forcing us to travel via more conventional means— airplane.
We eventually reach our destination.
The United Arab Emirates.
Dubai to be exact.
We arrive at our resort on Jumeriah Beach, right on the Persian Gulf. With it’s luxurious grounds and winding canals connecting the hotels and shops, it’s a cross between Venice and the fictional town of Agrabah.
A romantic, magic-carpet, Arabian Nights sort of place.
While snacking on fresh dates, you half expect Princess Jasmine to come waltzing across the glossy marble floors of the flower-filled lobby, followed closely by Rajah, her Bengal tiger.
It’s the fairytale version of the Middle East.
One day we’re at The Mall of the Emirates.
We‘re just off the food court, eating Haagen Dazs ice cream, watching in total amazement as locals enter a snowy, indoor ski resort.
A ski resort.
In. The. Mall.
Loaded chairlifts head to the peak of an indoor mountain. People with rented winter coats are making their way down the slope. Meanwhile, children bundled up nice and warm squeal in delight while playing in the snow.
At the bottom of the ski slope is a fancy restaurant. Flickering candles glow inside a row of gondolas stationary on the ground. Looking closer, you can make out the private tables—each gondola set for a romantic dinner.
As patrons arrive, they’re given luxurious fur coats, and ushered into this winter wonderland to dine. The windows soon fog over and the gondola truly becomes their private dining room for two.
We’re still lingering near the doorway, smiling in amazement—and amusement—when the maître d’ comes over to us.
We strike up a conversation in English and when he asks if we’d like to try skiing and see the snow, we can’t help but break into laughter.
“We’re from Canada.”
He breaks into laughter too. “I guess you’ve seen snow before then.”
Wild Wadi is my son, Quinton's, favourite place to spend the days. It’s Atlantis’ rival water park, located at one end of our resort. Picture lazy rivers and countless water slides. It’s hours and hours of fun under the scorching desert sun.
But, the most anticipated evening was yet to come.
One afternoon, a young Arab man comes to our hotel to get us. Dressed in his long white tunic and traditional red head scarf, is super-cool Tarik. He takes us far from the city in an SUV—pointing out all the palaces, princes, and princesses, along the way.
Palaces. Princes. Princesses.
The Sheikh has something like six wives and thirty children.
We finally arrive at some distant meeting place in the desert, now joining a convoy of SUVs.
And the fun begins.
We leave the highway and start driving up and down the rolling red sand dunes, heading deeper and deeper into the Arabian Desert.
We watch the vehicle ahead of us race to the peak of a dune, tires spinning, throwing a wall of sand at us as they try to get going.
Will he make it?
With a bit of fancy maneuvering, he reaches the top, now waiting for us to follow.
Tarik makes his way up the mountain of sand, then we all roar with laughter while flying down the opposite side, as if on a roller coaster—hoping we don’t roll the vehicle on the way down.
Eventually, as the golden hour nears, our convoy stops. Everyone piles out to watch the sun set over a glowing desert.
It’s a beautiful sight to behold.
Then...we pile back in to the SUV’s.
In the darkness, we keep driving until we get to...
Camels of course.
As my husband follows on foot, videotaping, Quinton and I share a camel, eventually stopping at a Bedouin Camp. Once within the compound’s make-shift walls, the food and entertainment begin.
In the middle of the camp is a low wooden stage covered in carpets.
Low tables placed on carpets—with pillows for seats—encircle the platform.
Under a starry sky, music plays and a lavender-garbed belly dancer performs for us. When she pulls Quinton up, attempting to teach him how to belly dance, Gord laughs non-stop the entire time.
The rest of the evening is spent laughing, eating and drinking, and posing in traditional costumes for photos. When we finally head back to Dubai in the wee hours, we’re tired, but content.
It was the side of the Middle East we’d travelled this far for.
A glimpse into a fairytale.
The stuff of 1001 Arabian Nights, magic carpets, and genie lamps.
It truly was a whole new world.