Dubai sand dunes at sunset

There is something unsettling about being told your four-wheel drive has a built in roll cage. It seemed like a warning that the worst could—and does—happen.

But when you’re stuck in the middle of the Dubai desert, there’s not much you can do but shotgun the front seat, do up your seatbelt, hold on tight and, occasionally, close your eyes and pray to whatever God you believe in.

A sunset safari through the Dubai sand dunes is great fun but it can also be a little scary, especially if you have a daredevil driver.

Think white knuckles and sweat stains.

I managed to sneak myself a two day stopover in Dubai on the way home from the UK and Santorini in mid-2013 and having previously had all my stopovers in Singapore or Hong Kong, I was keen to get a taste of the middle east.

My first impression was that Dubai is the Las Vegas of the desert … not because of gambling, drinking and neon signs, but because everything is done to excess.

Why have a normal shopping centre when you can have one complete with indoor ski field, aquarium or Renaissance architecture.

And why build a standard five-star hotel … build the world’s tallest hotel, the biggest hotel, the flashiest hotel (at a self proclaimed seven stars). Include waterslides, manmade islands and sky high tennis courts.

Given I was in the city for less than 48 hours, I kept my to-do list simple: see the penguins at Ski Dubai, go on a desert safari, see the Burj Dubai (which was the world’s tallest building), visit the Gold Souk, swim in the Gulf, and check out at least one shopping centre.

I managed to make them all happen and still found time to hang out in the pool, have lunch with a mate, order room service and watch a movie!

The highlight—aside from hanging out with my mate Scotty, who lives around the corner from me in Brisbane but it took us being in a foreign country to actually get around to catching up—was the Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari I took with Arabian Adventures.

From the moment we were picked up by our driver, he entertained us with information about the city, the development boom and, once we hit the desert, the animals that inhabit it.

Leaving the bustle of Dubai city behind, we headed for the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep into the heart of the desert. After a short stop for refreshments and an eagle show, we headed for the sand dunes where, after a crazy ride, we stopped to watch the sun set over the sand. So much sand.

While some drivers in our sand dune safari group acted as though they were driving Miss Daisy, ours decided to give us the ride of our lives flying over dunes, sliding down the sand and at times, leaning so far to the side it felt like we were more horizontal than vertical.

We laughed. We gasped. We practically kissed the sand when we arrived at our final destination.

Then it was back into our cars to head to camp for dinner where we enjoyed a feast of grilled meats, fresh salads and Arab sweets while watching belly dancers sway to the sounds of Arabian music.

After riding a camel and then making a failed (but somewhat funny) attempt at smoking a shisha, it was back into the cars to head home to our hotels, and then I headed to bed with the comforting thought that I’d ticked another item off my bucket list.

When it comes to packing for Dubai, there are a few rules to remember.

Basically, leave the midriffs, skin tight, cut-out detail and mini dresses in your suitcase and go for light coloured, flowing and breathable fabrics because it’s hot, hot, hot!

Remember that while you can wear (or not wear as the case may be!) whatever you want in your hotel room, or apartment, if you’re out in public its better to keep everything from your shoulders to your knees covered up.

If you have sleeveless or low cut tops, a pashmina or lightweight cotton scarf can be great to cover up without making you too warm. Cardigans are also handy, because while temperatures soar outside, all the shopping centres and hotels are air-conditioned and can get quite chilly.

And if you go to Ski Dubai, you’ll want to wear extra layers … I was so cold my toes and nose turned red!

Here are my essentials for a two day stopover in Dubai:

What to pack for Dubai

1. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 30+, $15 | 2. Nivea Soft Moisturiser, $15 | 3. Witchery Soft Washed Scarf, $49.95 | 4. Cozi by Jennifer Hawkins Straw Panama with Neon Trim, $49.95 | 5. Camilla Colour Weaving Belted Kaftan with arm detail, $569 | 6. Ray-Ban Wayfarer, $239,  | 7. Seed Frill sleeve dress, $99.95 | 8. Rexona Clinical for men and women | 9. Witchery Slim Chambray Pant, $129.95 | 10. Seed Two print shift dress, $99.95 | 11. Witchery Spot Palazzo Pant, $129.95.

Make sure you day bag is stocked with bottled water, sunscreen, moisturiser (your skin can dry out quite quickly from the heat and the air-conditioning) and you’ll want a good deodorant like Rexona Clinical for men and women because being outdoors, even racing between the hotel and a taxi is sweat-central.

Where I stayed … Jumeriah Beach, Dubai.
Where I stayed … Jumeriah Beach, Dubai.

This post was brought to you by Rexona Clinical for men. Please support the brands that support this blog.


  1. Kirralee @ Escape With Kids

    Oh I just adore that Camilla kaftan. One of those lust-worthy items that I keep promising myself I’ll buy one day.

    The 4wd-ing in the sand dunes was a bit too much for me. Give me the biggest rollercoaster in the world and I’m fine, but this truly terrified me and not in a good way. I was just glad when it finished. I loved the rest of the trip though – being in the middle of the sand dunes at night for the dinner in the tent, etc. Really unique and memorable.


  2. Sonia Life Love Hiccups

    Having only been there myself just over a month ago.. man you brought back some awesome memories. How diverse is that place! And to be standing in the Arabian desert was one of the highlights and now just seems so surreal. So glad you had such an awesome time xx


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