Sunday, January 26, 2014

Taking lesson on falconry at the desert

A visit to Dubai is not complete for most people without a safari tour where a mysterious desert beckons tourists for a magical evening out. Jimoh Babatunde joined other tourists to experience how the sun descends into the horizon around the enchanting show of falconry…
With several visits to Dubai in the last few years attending the Arabian Travel Market, the opportunity for safari trip had not presented itself until recently when the Emirates Airline provided it as part of the tour packaged for a trip to watch Arsenal football club in London.
The journey from London Heathrow to Dubai would have been stressful having to travel immediately after watching Arsenal and Norwich match live at the Emirates stadium but for the opportunity to fly An Airbus A380.
Stepping into the Business class located at the upper deck of the aircraft at Heathrow, I was not prepared for the flying experience awaiting me.
The A380 offers a flying experience no other aircraft in the sky can match, and redefines the meaning of comfort for all passengers – whether they are premium customers in first and business class, or leisure travellers in the economy cabin.
The manufacturer of the Airbus has gone to great lengths to make long-haul flying aboard the A380 feel more natural for its passengers – with broader seats, more personal storage, better head room and wider stairs and aisles.
The Emirates’ A380 offers 14 flat-bed First Class Private Suites with electrically operated doors and 76 fully-flat mini-pods in Business Class – all with aisle access – on the upper deck. Downstairs, there are 427 comfortable contoured seats in Economy Class, spread across four separate cabins.
I soon slept after the delicious meal on board to enjoy the Business Class seats that convert into a flat bed at the touch of a button. Using the touchscreen controller, you can adjust your seat to suit your own preferences and comfort. Each seat extends to form a flat bed up to 79 inches long.
Arriving Dubai refreshed, we were checked into the hotel where we had some hours of sleep before the safari tour billed for 3pm. “Jimoh, Please you are the team leader now. Make sure you are at the lobby 15 minutes before the time. It will be worthwhile experience.” That was Liz Opalka of the Emirates Airline.
Expectedly, the three of us (Jimoh, Tunji and Ajanaku) were at the lobby when the tour guide from Arabian Adventure arrived. “I am Yamen. I am here to pick you for the tour. Please lets go”, with this he ushered us into a Toyota four wheel car for the journey that took about 45 minutes.
As we left behind the crowds and chaos of the city, our tour guide, Yamen, took pleasure in telling us about political issues back in his native country of Syria and world politics. Just as he also informed us that the Arabian Adventure company is owned by the UAE government and sponsor by Emirates and that informed why it is the only tour company allowed to do drone drive, so as to guarantee safety of tourists.
Arriving at the gate of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert, the tyres of the Toyota Land Cruiser had to be deflated. There were other vehicles parked for the same purpose.
We alighted from the vehicle to the warm, breezy afternoon sun to watch the falcon show. Lots of tourists were seated under canopies erected in the open field about to participate in a falcon hunt or learn about the history of these magnificent birds, and even experience a little of what life was like for the Bedouin.
And when a  middle aged man  came  to the scene with a falcon bird with a bag stripped round his neck, he  immediately became the point of focus as he takes the tourists on the history of falcon which is the national emblem of United Arab Emirate.
He said falconry is an age old tradition for the people of this region, especially for the Bedouin. The falcons themselves are beautiful birds of prey with an impressive capacity to learn and to trust their handlers.
“Three things to know about a falcon, if you want them to hunt. One, is the falcon needs to be hungry. They will never hunt if they are full. Second, it is insulting to the falcons if you offer them small prey, such as a mouse or rabbit. These birds can, and have, taken down animals as large as an oryx. Lastly, a falcon will never chase it’s prey if it is still and most animals know this, so they remain motionless hiding in the desert grass.”
It wasn’t long before the prey was brought fro the bag and the falcon soon began her hunt. Between the time the falcon was released and the prey was captured could not have been more than five minutes. The falconry show not only showcases the majestic bird of prey, but also the beauty of the desert making for multiple photo opportunities.
With the falcon show over, over 45 Toyata jeeps, each taking not less than three tourists, were on ground for the thrilling journey – over towering sand dunes, and through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert.
The Arabian roller coaster ride known as dune bashing (desert driving) was interesting as we shriek and laugh with excitement as the car goes up and down the dunes.
As the sun descends into the horizon, the vehicles stop to allow tourists to take sunset photographs, while standing on top of the fading desert dunes.  We then head to the campsite where a convoy of camels awaits our arrival for short camel rides. As the sun casts its glow over the soft sands, lanterns come to life in the distance, signaling a traditional welcome.

After returning from the camel ride, we moved into the camp relaxing on low cushions in traditional Bedouin tents to enjoy an Arabian BBQ (barbeque/barbecue) buffet dinner and dessert beside a blazing bonfire with traditional cups of coffee and dates, underneath the pitch-black night sky.
Before we head back to Dubai, we were entertained by the dancing of a belly dancer to traditional Arabic music in company of a friend from New Zealand we met on the trip.
Heading back to Dubai, we had  discussion on  the economic benefit of the tour to the Dubai government and its people taking into consideration that Nigeria has a huge potentials  in tourism that  are not being utilized . “Did you see the number of tourists  from different parts of the world there? Don’t  forget  that we were told that  over  forty five jeeps with at least three people were with us  this evening.
“There are three session per day. Imagine what they would have spent on accommodation and food  on this tour as more than 500 people  come here  every month from this company not to talk of others.” Tunji said.
Ajanaku quickly added that the issue of security is taken for granted here as  there is no policeman or soldier wielding guns going about  as is common back home. The absence of  gun carrying security officials doting all nooks and cranny does not mean that tourist are left unguarded.
There is no doubt that an internal security mechanism is put in place since government is aware of the huge economic interest inherent in a sustained thriving and security guaranteed tourism.