OFFBEAT, ADVENTUROUS & THRILLING EXPERIENCE OF SAND DUNE BASHING AT MLEIHA, SHARJAH, U.A.E. PLUS 65000 BILLION YEARS OLD FOSSILS!
This blog is about my thrilling dune bashing experience in Mleiha. I also visited the pre historic caves, billions of years old fossils and camel rock. Mleiha is an upcoming destination near Sharjah and Dubai in U.A.E.
OUR ENTERTAINING DRIVER FROM PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN:
You want it soft or hardcore? After a few hesitant replies, me and all of my blogger friends unanimously voted for a hardcore dune bashing session in the vast deserts of Mleiha. For most of us, it was a first time experience of dune bashing. Nihar Asghar, the driver from Peshawar in Pakistan, spoke in thick Pashtooni accent and on realizing that we are Indians, played Bollywood songs for us. He regaled us with tales from Pakistan and why he prefers staying in U.A.E. Absorbed in his entertaining banter, we were taken for a surprise when suddenly he changed the gear and drove on soft sand. He caught us unaware when the vehicle roared as it moved up and down on the ever changing landscape of the sand paradise. We realized that the tar road had ended. The fun begins!
THE THRILL AND ADRENALINE RUSH OF SAND DUNE BASHING:
We sat cocooned in the vehicle, anticipating how the session will turn out. Since it was a first time experience for me, I was excited to see what happened next! I tried to balance my video camera but in vain. 1 minute of straight driving was followed by sudden dips and climb on the loose sand. As the driver maneuvered the vehicle on the edges of the dunes, we could not help but marvel at the dexterity with which he handled the steering.
It takes lot of training and an alert mind to drive so skillfully on hostile terrains. I enjoyed every bit of the ride. Being an adventure enthusiast, I did not find even the hardcore version of dune bashing as dangerous as I expected. I would advise you to opt for hardcore and skip the softcore dune bashing. I have enjoyed it and want to return to try it again, maybe this time in Dubai.
THE FAMOUS CAMEL ROCK OF MLEIHA:
We took a brief break in the middle of the desert. On agenda was a huge rock which resembled a camel. It did live up to its name when we had its first glimpse. I stood there silently, insulated from the excited exclamatory sounds of my co travelers and communed with the vast expanse of sand.
Nature never fails to amaze me even after 10 years of independent travel. Nihar, our guide from Pakistan told us that people camp here overnight and that the sunset is a stunner. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do overnight camping. My stupor was broken when 2 youngsters, apparently, Emiratis, whizzed past in style on a cool quad bike. As they vanished in the far distance, leaving behind a tiny desert storm, I promised myself to try quad biking the next time I see a desert.
65000 BILLION YEAR OLD FOSSIL ROCK IN MLEIHA:
The 65,000 billion years old fossil rock is a paradise for paleontologists. Nihar stopped the car for us to have a close look at the fossils. Our Indian guide from Mleiha Archaeological Centre, poured some water over the rock to expose the details of the fossils which have been in the same state since times immemorial.
It was exciting to see well preserved body shapes of sea creatures from a lost era when human species did not even roam the Earth. The fossil rock is testimony to the fact that the sand we were standing on was once buried under the sea. This was my most favourite part of the trip and we spent half an hour observing the fossils and listening to our erudite Indian guide. As we were leaving, the guide pointed to a cave above which desert foxes call home.
THE SUNSET POINT OF SAND DUNES OF MLEIHA:
As we were enjoying the thrill of a roller-coasteresque ride on the sand dune peaks, Nihar stopped the vehicle abruptly. Just when I was thinking if something went wrong, Nihar took us to a vantage point. Being an industry insider, he knows all the great stops en route. We were impressed with the sweeping views of the land below. We gasped collectively as we trained our gaze on nothingness. The vast land had nothing but few trees and a camel here and there.
The pattern of naked landscape was disturbed by a Bedouin colony. Mleiha has only recently been developed by the Government as a tourist destination. Till not so long ago, the local Bedouin called it home and lived in makeshift tent houses and even caves. The Government has now built a special brick and mortar colony and given them free homes. They no longer have to call desert foxes as the next cave neighbor. The wind here was very strong and it was difficult to stand still. Just the way I prefer it, eh! I wanted to visit the Bedouin colony but lack of time stopped me to.
WHY GO TO SHARJAH, U.A.E. FOR SAND DUNE BASHING?
In my country India, dune bashing has still not reached professional level and still does not meet the safety norms. In places like Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, dune bashing has lately picked up but is conducted by unauthorized professionals who do it on rickety open jeeps. Despite the immense popularity of dune bashing, the standards are improving, but slowly. Therefore, Indians and people from other nationalities prefer heading to U.A.E. for dune bashing.
MY FASCINATION WITH DESERTS!
The last time I saw a desert was in Wadi Rum in Jordan. It was my first time in a desert and I had a child like excitement. We even stayed overnight in tents. I also saw a cold desert in Nubra valley in Ladakh, India. Though the deserts in Jordan and Mleiha were quite similar, the cold desert of Ladakh was a different beast altogether! I have recently finished reading a book Seyyah. The author Gautham took a 20,000 kilometers journey across 8 countries, tracking the silk route. He came across deserts in many different countries. Of all the places he had mentioned in the book I am most keen to experience the deserts in China. Even noted travel writer Paul Theroux mentioned China’s deserts in his books and its links with the Silk Road.
OTHER ACTIVITIES IN MLEIHA
- Do not forget to visit the Mleiha Archaeological Centre. It has a fantastic museum on the ancient days of Mleiha and U.A.E.
- Do visit the pre-historic cave shelters. It reminded me of Bhimbhetka in Madhya Pradesh, India.
- Stargazing at night is recommended for astronomy enthusiasts.
- Wildlife trips are popular in deserts.
- Trekking and cycling tours are also available in Mleiha.
HOW TO REACH MLEIHA
The closest big city to Mleiha is Sharjah. It is also close to Dubai and easily accessible. I would suggest booking a taxi for a convenient trip.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MLEIHA AND SHARJAH
October to April is winter in Sharjah. The weather is pleasant in these months. It gets really hot in U.A.E. May onwards.
The view from my #SoulWindow gave me adrenaline rush!
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Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry to host the writers and bloggers for reviews and media reports, I was also invited on the press trip to cover it. However, my views are not influenced by the sponsorship. It is my responsibility to give truthful information to my readers on my blog and I have adhered to that personal policy while writing this blog.
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