x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

When it was one dune too many

After a year and a half of living in Abu Dhabi, we had still not been to the desert. So we were thrilled when friends arriving from France demanded an itinerary that included camel riding and the desert.

After a year and a half of living in Abu Dhabi, we had still not been to the desert. It was one of those things we knew we should do, but somehow never found the time to. Then, suddenly, it was too hot and plans were put on hold until the following winter. So we were thrilled when friends arriving from France demanded an itinerary that included camel riding and the desert. These friends have two daughters, Elisa and Astrid. They are best friends of the ferals; the lead feral Olivia and Elisa have been misbehaving since the age of three.

Arabian Adventures collected us from the Shangri-La at 3.30pm. We bundled into two mighty four-wheel drives. My first stroke of luck was to palm lead feral and her sister Bea off on their father in the other car. So we had a relatively peaceful journey to the dunes, while the unfortunate Canadians who had joined our party had to put up with Hannah Montana songs and endless bickering. Once there, we stopped on top of a dune to take in the view. The colours were magnificent in the afternoon sun and the dunes endless. The ferals and playmates rolled up and down the dune, laughing as if they were playing in snow.

Then it was time for some dune bashing. I had been slightly dreading this part of the trip. I am not known for my love of speed and hanging at strange angles from cars. But not even in my nightmares could I have imagined how much I would hate it. My first thought was that we would die; then that I was going to throw up. Nishab, our driver, was lovely and kept offering to slow down. By now lead feral was back in my car with Elisa and Bea. There was to be no talk of slowing down. They absolutely loved it. They even loved when we got stuck on top of a dune and had to be towed off it. Even my otherwise sane French friend Alexandra was totally smitten.

"C'est plus fort que la Roquefort," she said grinning widely. I think it was mention of that cheese that finally sent me over the edge. To my shame the whole convoy had to be stopped. Nishab called the other driver Fouad to tell him someone had been sick. "I bet it was you," said my husband, as he got out of the other car looking fresh as a daisy. Leo and Astrid spent the whole time shrieking: "C'est trop cool".

I offered to walk to the camel farm, the next stop on the itinerary, but Nishab said leaving me in the desert was not an option. Happily, the drive wasn't too long and we then walked to the see the sunset from the top of a dune; which for me was the trip's highlight. At the camp we had camel rides and a glorious dinner. The only downside being the sound of the road, which Fouad told me they built six months after he built the camp.

As we sat around smoking apple Shisha and the ferals played hide and seek, Nishab asked me if I felt any better. I told him I did. "We took it easy today because there were kids in the cars," he said. So there are some advantages to travelling with children after all. hpowell@thenational.ae

Arabian Adventures (www.arabian-adventures.com; 02 691 1711) offers a dune and dinner safari that costs from US$83 (Dh305) per adult and $76 (Dh280) per child