A Desert Safari

After the excitement of the Grand Prix we managed a few quiet days. Our next big adventure was a Dubai desert safari experience. Other than shopping this is one of the most common tourist activities in Dubai.

According to the travel websites there are a range of options but broadly speaking the more you pay the more you get. The more expensive trips even include gold-colored vehicles, it seems that matters to some people. IT Guy picked one of the bigger Dubai desert safari tour operators because regularly seeing their vehicles around Dubai gave him confidence the company was reputable.

IT Guy had arranged pick up at a hotel near where he lives. Of course bad timing with laundry meant we were watching the washing machine timer when we should have been catching a taxi. This meant a mad dash to the hotel and then of course we sat for 20 mins waiting for our car to arrive.

Our first stop inside the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve was a falconry display and I was amused to learn that the the falconer was South African. Near the end of the display the falcon settled on the dune and I think the falconer starting to worry about getting his bird back, fortunately she returned.

This was followed by dune bashing. For me it was the highlight of the trip but near the end IT Guy was struggling with car sickness. At least one of the vehicles had to stop. Fortunately for IT Guy we soon stopped to watch the sunset.

A picture of cars driving through the dunes
A picture of the sun setting over the dunes

Then onto a Bedouin-style camp. We had our photos taken with a falcons. We also tried out the sandboarding although halfway up the dune I remembered how difficult sand is to walk in, and was regretting my decision. Sadly I can’t say the sandboarding down was worth the effort for me. We also had a short camel ride.

Once we got inside the camp we had just enough time to get a drink and then the starters were served. We found a nice spot around a fire and settled to enjoy our food and drinks. Our package included drinks so there were regular trips to the bar.

After we had eaten we both got henna tattoos. I was impressed at the speed with which the lady was able to draw a delicate pattern on my hand.  Then we watched the end of the belly dancing. Once that was finished, the lights were turned out for 5 mins. A sad reflection of modern technology is that most people turned on their cell phone flashes which I felt spoilt the moment.

There were element of the trip that were very touristy. Still that is expected. Overall I really enjoyed the desert safari and I would recommend going if you visit Dubai.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Finally the day of the Grand Prix arrived.  After a walk round the Pit Lane and having watched some Formula 2 I was definitely getting into the spirit of things.

The other advantage of having traveled to the Yas Island Circuit a few times is that it was easier for us to plan our trip to Abu Dhabi on the day of the Grand Prix.  Well in theory anyway.  We had to make a stop to collect a ticket for a friend and ended up taking a wrong turn.  Interestingly the SatNav directed us through the Yas Mall car park. 

Unfortunately we arrived too late to see the drive past with the racing car drivers.  We caught a glimpse from the bus as we drove past the race track to our grandstand.  After finding our seats in the Marina Grandstand we headed for the beer garden to chill out before the start of the race.

A picture of a crowd of people in a beer garden

There was a fantastic atmosphere with everyone having fun.  There was loud music and of course fans of the different teams dressed up to show who they supported.  We returned to our seats in time to catch the fly by.

Part of the Yas Marina Circuit which shows the Marina and the Yas Hotel

I have to admit that I was half expecting to get bored part way through the F1 race but in the end I found it really interesting.  The race started with a rather spectacular crash but the driver was unharmed.  IT Guy had showed me some videos about strategies related to tyre changes and the impact of the safety car so we considered what effect such an early use of the safety car would have.  The next challenge was getting a few decent pics of fast cars.

In the top right of the above picture, is a corner which was very popular for overtaking.  The challenge was watching for overtaking attempts and who would be ahead as they came out of the corner.  Then the cars would come flying back past us and under the Yas Hotel.  When the cars came back round we would be watching for more changes to the order from overtaking on other parts of the circuit.  There was enough going on to keep me interested till the end of the race.

After the race ended we spent more time chilling out in the beer garden.  We knew there was no need to rush to the Du Arena for the “Guns and Roses” concert.

This was the first time I had been to a Grand Prix and I really enjoyed it. Being able to attend a range of activities made for a fantastic experience and added to my enjoyment of the main race

Soaking up the Atmosphere at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

One of the nice things about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, at the Yas Marina Circuit, is that you can buy tickets which cover a wide range of events.  We got a package that covered the 4 days starting with the Pit Lane Walk which meant we could see the cars up close.

After the Pit Lane Walk we headed for the beer garden for a drink and to enjoy the atmosphere.  We managed to find some food although being late in the day our choices were somewhat limited.  Still there was a really good atmosphere with everyone enjoying themselves.  At some point some of the drivers were signing autographs.

Chilling at the Yas Marina Circuit
Driver Autograph signing

Every evening there is an after race concert starting with Post Malone.  So after eating we headed back to the bus stop to catch a bus to the Du Arena.  We did stopping to get some photos with formula 2 cars.  We got to the Arean there shortly after 6 pm when the gates opened so while the stadium was starting to fill we had to wait till 8 pm for the concert to start.  The first part was a DJ.  I guess we were showing our age because we decided it was way too loud and it was not worth waiting for Post Malone so we left.  Nonetheless the concert was very popular and I’m sure most people would have enjoyed it.

Grand Prix Concert at the Du Arena

On Friday we decided not to attend the F1 Grand Prix.  It was mostly practice races and we were not very interested in the after race concert.  IT Guy had some work to complete and I wanted to catch up on my sleep.  It turns out this was a good choice because security decided to close the gates early and so there were riots with people pushing and shoving so the gates were reopened.  I gather this kind of behavior in the UAE because the authorities are quick to clamp down on any trouble.

On Saturday we had planned to attend the qualifying race but we ended up watching IT Guy’s cricket team.  Then we headed for Abu Dhabi and it seems like everyone was in the Grand Prix spirit with a lot of fast cars and also crazy drivers with aspirations to drive racing cars.  We arrived in time for some Formula 2 racing.  I found it a nice warm up for the Grand Prix because it was a chance to get an idea of what it would be like watching fast cars go round the Yas Marina Circuit.  We quickly learned that there was a good view of one of the corners which was a good spot for overtaking so it was interesting to see which car would come out of the corner first.

Then we headed for the concert area.  Sam Smith was performing and IT Guy was very keen to watch him live.  I enjoyed the concert but I think IT Guy was a bit disappointed because he did not perform all of his best songs and did a lot of talking.

Overall I enjoyed the Grand Prix concerts and the atmosphere.  Even if you are not interested in watching the F1 racing there is still a lot to do and it can be lots of fun.