Desert Dwelling

It is always fun to see camels meandering along the road.  This may be because they

This picture is actually from a camping trip in December
This picture is actually from a camping trip in December

are still so foreign looking to us.  Seeing a moose or bear in Canada was always novel (just because the experience is relatively rare) but a horse or cow is simply part of the landscape.  Camels are ultimately a part of the landscape here but they are still, after only 4 months, a novelty.  We haven’t had the chance to ride one yet but rest assured I won’t be leaving the Middle East without a camel ride.  Why am I talking about camels? Well our adventures of late have included quite a few camel sightings.

With our intrepid friends the Palmers we ventured out into the desert last Saturday to play with the kids in the sand dunes.  We did a little driving in the sand which stresses me out to no end.  If I had a vehicle that was meant for that kind of driving I think I would enjoy it but with the constant threat of getting stuck in the desert with a car full of kids hanging over me like a guillotine my cortisol levels are way too high to truly enjoy the ride.  Nonetheless we found some excellent sand dunes to play in.

The Desert
The Palmer and MacDonald clans enjoying the sand

As a kid my scout troop would raise money every year by filling and selling sand bags.  I have great memories of running all over the giant piles of sand we used to fill the bags.  The dunes here are much larger and a great deal of fun.  So we resolved to come back at the end of the week to do some camping.

On our way home we ran across some locals with their dogs at a camel race track.  The dogs were Salukis, which are one of the oldest known domesticated dog breeds.  They look built to run and these locals looked like they were getting set to make them do just that.  The men had rigged a long metal beam to the top of their jeep and from the end tied a dead rabbit.  Surprisingly, Lilli didn’t put up much of a stink about the poor rabbit.  She wants a rabbit.  Mainly, I think, because she’d like to name it Arnab (which is Arabic for rabbit).  Anyway, with the rabbit dangling from the metal pole they would drive down the outside of the track with the metal beam and its rabbit sticking out over the track and the dogs in hot pursuit.  I suggested to the kids that we should let Bonnie and Clyde race but for some reason they didn’t think that was a good idea – one of the other dogs might mistake them for a rabbit.  Bridget captured a video of the dogs sprinting down the track – if you look carefully you can see the rabbit skipping along in front.

Generally when we go camping on a weekend we invite tons of people.  More often than not one or maybe two families actually join us.  This long weekend we had 8 besides ourselves. Of course, this made for quite the enjoyable occasion.  After work on Wednesday I came straight home to pack the vehicle and lead the way.  The Palmers were off work before us and led another family out to the place we’d found on Saturday.  So it was up to Lisa and I to lead the rest.  With a bit of a false start getting away from the gas station we all made it out to the desert.  One family only had a two wheel drive rental vehicle but managed to get through the sand to the… “campground,” random spot in the desert, the place we decided to pitch our tents.

A morning view from the top of the sand dunes overlooking camp.
A morning view from the top of the sand dunes overlooking camp.

That two wheel drive made it out no problem but we spent a couple hours the next morning digging them out.  After several attempts at pulling them out a local came by with a beat up old truck and managed to get them to solid ground.  Of course, he snapped one of the two tow ropes we had in the process.  Being that it wasn’t my vehicle stuck in the sand it was all pretty exciting.  I did feel bad for Paul during the ordeal with his three kids, one just a baby.  In the end we were all safe and sound just super dirty.  This was Paul and Michelle’s first camping trip in the UAE… perhaps one of their first camping trips ever.  Michelle had a roasted marshmallow for the first time! Maybe they don’t have marshmallows in Ireland? 🙂  Getting their vehicle stuck in the sand was a great introduction to camping… they won’t soon forget the experience.  Now if we can get them to practice a little cognitive dissonance they may join us again.  They were fun to have along so I hope they do.

I’ve been looking to spot a Camel Spider since we got here and felt optimistic about our

Can you see the scorpion in the house Jaron and his friend made?
Can you see the scorpion in the house Jaron and his friend made?

chances on this trip.  Alas no Camel Spiders but I did catch a gecko and even better a fairly nice sized scorpion.  Jaron and his friend had a great time with the scorpion – they tortured… I mean played with it for at least an hour.  They even built it a little “house,” hiding place out of sticks for it.

We discovered that a body board makes a great sand dune sled.  My skim board wasn’t much fun, to my disappointment.  The next time we’ll leave the skim board at home and bring the body board.  It gets cold at night in the desert but we were comfortably warm in our new sleeping bags and on our new two-inch backpacking sleeping mats.  Well kirsten was a little cold… we’ll have to find her a fleece liner for her sleeping bag.

Surprise you've been cuddling with a scorpion all night.
Surprise you’ve been cuddling with a scorpion all night.

We are fairly confident that we have the majority of the camping gear we need for our European camping trip this summer.  Just a few more small things and we should be all set.  Anyone want to join us for a backpacking trip through Italy and France in June?

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