Dubai seemed to hold the promise of so much more than material pleasures. I want to look up at the stunning sparkling pinnacles piercing the skies and maybe see a star at a fancy beach club. To me, the appeal goes beyond the glossy postcard.
Staring out the window on the India to Dubai flight, I twiddled my thumbs nervously in anticipation of the adventures that awaited me in this vast desert metropolis. Sure, like most tourists, I hope to get in a bit of shopping in those mammoth glitzy malls and maybe even splurge on a stay in one of those uber-luxury Burj Al Arab rooms I’d seen photos of online.
Sandboarding down Dubai’s Giant Sand Dunes
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I was excited and scared as I mounted on my first sandboard and glanced down at the orange monster dune. I inhaled, recalling my teacher Ali’s suggestion to lean back and balance. “Ya salaam, here goes nothing!” As I down the steep hill, I shouted nervously to my pals. As I ran downward, the sand sped past my face, giving me an adrenaline boost. I first wobbled, turning my arms wildly.
Once I got my rhythm, I leaned back and smiled big. Soon, I was at the bottom, giving my cheering pals a joyful thumbs up, my anxieties gone and my adrenaline high unparalleled! As expected, sandboarding down Dubai’s massive red dunes was thrilling. I can’t wait to save enough and purchase a board to keep playing this amazing new sport!
Skydiving Leap of Faith
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I was frightened and excited as I jumped out of the skydiving aircraft at gut-wrenching speed, knowing my 79-year-old grandpa Mohammed was waiting. I skydived to honour him, who constantly recalled boyhood camel rides over Dubai’s dunes. I considered how delighted I was to give my grandpa this experience as I fell silently from 15,000 feet, seeing the Dubai city glitter below.
I was overcome with emotion when I soared down behind a billowing parachute and saw my grandfather’s weak figure hobbling joyously with my family. I cried with thanks and joy, a sense of his pride. His gentle landing, heartfelt hug, and tearful eyes conveyed all. Skydiving was the ultimate tribute to his daring spirit in me.
Haggling at the Spice Souk for Oud Perfume
I could hardly contain my excitement as our traditional wooden abra boat floated towards the bustling Spice Market. This was my first chance to experience Dubai’s vibrant cultural side after 3 long days stuck in a financial conference. The aromatic mélange of cardamom, cinnamon and fragrant saffron filled the air as shouting stall owners hawked colourful pyramids of the exotic spices.
One persistent trader named Ahmed dressed in crisp white kandura spotted me and insistently pulled me to his tiny storefront crammed with glittering perfume bottles. “Come, my friend, I will give you a very good price, much less than a foolish neighbour!” he exclaimed, flashing a cheeky grin as he offered delicate rose-shaped bottles of oud perfume for me to sample. Tempted by the exotic scent, I decided to try my hand at haggling. “100 dirhams only for you my friend!” Ahmed offered. “No no, 50!” I joked, playing along. I left with 3 ornate perfume bottles, happy to support this enthusiastic merchant. Who knew haggling could be such fun!
Bedouin Hospitality at its Finest
As my tour group entered the simple yet majestic desert camp, a symphony of inviting smells filled the air – earthy Arabic coffee and cardamom-laced oudh. Our host Yasmin welcomed us draped in a vibrant peach abaya gown embroidered with golden thread. “Ahlan wa sahlan!” she warmly greeted, beckoning our group to take seats atop plush patterned floor cushions beside the glowing hearth. She enthusiastically poured small servings of frothy camel milk, handing them around as her husband began softly strumming a stringed rababah lute, crooning in soulful song.
We soaked up the atmosphere, tucking into the delectable feast of herb-marinated lamb and honeyed desserts. Yasmin’s eyes crinkled joyfully as we dined, proud to share a glimpse into authentic Emirati culture. As the embers burned low under a blanket of stars, my heart brimmed with gratitude for her family’s wonderful hospitality. This was an experience I will forever treasure.
From sandboarding down towering orange dunes to embodying my grandfather’s adventurous spirit on a skydive, then haggling in fragrant bazaars before experiencing Emirati traditions firsthand – Dubai has allowed me to create memories bursting with cultural discovery. I cannot wait to return to this dynamic desert metropolis for more adventures!