Woke up this morning determined to tackle my travel notes . It is a long time , well after mid day before Ii could extricate myself from the task. My Desert Safari is for 3.00pm, so I decided in the interim to to go get a meal at the Royal Paris Star. My fried rice took so long in coming and tasted like crap. Note to self: never eat here again.
The tour driver called while I am still eating, asking me for direction to my hotel . I seem to be the only one who knows anywhere around here.I quickly finish up with my lunch and arrived at my hotel just in time to be picked up at 3.10pm. The driver needed to pick up five other passengers in his Landcruiser - three Indian kids and a Norwegian couple. Afterward, we head for the desert.The skyline for the buildings change so drastically as we headed out of the city and into the sands - from towering skyscrapers glistening like enormous diamond, to mud-coloured flat-roofed single story buildings . It again spiritedly changes to rows and rows of blocks of flats mostly unoccupied, mostly half-completed , mostly results of the hopeful gambits of some optimistic property tycoons.
We finally get into prime desert and stop at a place which seems the starting point for all desert tour vehicles. Here the tour driver lets out some air from his tires to improve traction in the loose sand and then away we went in a mad cavorting over hills and dunes. Disaster ; the driver seemed to have let out too much air from his near rear tire which we soon loose. Changing the tyre took about a quarter hour and again off he went , the kids screaming merrily and I with my heart in my mouth wondering what a crazy mess I'd managed to get myself into this time . The persistent fear of an heart attack trailed every minute of this nasty ride ; this alternating with a belief that this silly ass driver would eventually roll the four-wheeler over the side of a hill and we will all finally end up with broken necks. This torture lasted well over half an hour, but we eventually got to the desert camp where we were going to be entertained later in the evening. I dropped out of the Landcruiser , and thanked Jesus, thanked Allah and thanked Ogun for the safe trip.
An old desert guy hustled me for a tenner for me to have my photo taken with his hooded falcon sitting on my arm. I declined a camel ride - thinking I had been lucky enough so far in the desert truck ride. I had my photo taken standing beside the bored beast instead. Then from a free wardrobe of costumes I dressed myself up like an Arab guy and had someone take my picture with my phone. Still a bit shaken from the trip , I went to a kiosk to get myself a free can of soda. The Arab attendant seemed affronted that I had just grabbed my drink without asking him first. I apologised , but he nevertheless retrieved what I had taken and gave me another can . His job done he waved me a cheerful good bye and away I went to get my buffet dinner.
The entertainment soon commenced. First on the podium was a guy they called Mr Tito , who did a crazy vertiginous dance spinning round and round for ever and somehow managing to keep his balance . He ended his act by suddenly becoming lit up with small lights all over him like a Christmas tree,all the while still spinning around. Hey, I don't want this job. Next came a bored-looking guy who proceeded to play a sort of bagpipe instrument which looked like it had been constructed from the skin of a goat. His music is completely incomprehensible. Then came the belly-dancer; her name escaped me.She commenced an elaborate and sexy dance ,which I thought I also ought to enjoy but couldn't think why. Finally we had to leave. There was no crazy dune bashing this time around; it was a smooth ride along the quiet highway through the even more quiet desert.The Norwegian couple were leaving Dubai next morning and were happy to have a spirited discussion with me about what my country looked like , and even more excited to learn that I had lived in London for a while too and that I had family in USA. They certainly didn't seem to have ever done much of traveling.
(Excerpt from the book 'Salam!' )