Anand leads us from the Land Cruiser down a sandy hill to the entrance of the large square fort. The stone and wooden walls of Al Aweer camp. There are Camel rides out front, a large central stage in the middle of the square, and some souvenir shops around the interior walls. Anand leads us to our seat and shows us where the food, beer and sheesha sections are. “Enjoy the show!”
We sit on some cushions on the ground by the large central stage. Michaela and I go grab everyone some fantas. Hot times here in the desert. The beers are 4 for 100 dirhams so basically 5 bucks each. We tell the bartender guy that we’ll be back.
Peter and I rush up the hill above the dune to get sunset pics. Nope it’s fallen below a dust layer, we missed it. Camp Aweer kind of has a less gritty Mad Max Thunderdome feel to it.
We get back to our table and pound orange fantas. It’s starting to get dark, if we’re gonna do camel rides, now’s the time. We bust over to the front entrance and they’re all ready for us. The camels are wearing colorful saddles like Persian rugs. They also have face masks, presumably so they don’t spit on you in disgust as you try to mount their tired humps at the end of a long day of toddlers jumping all over them.
I cheer mine up with a bitchin camel selfie! He blows my hair back with a garoooof and nods in approval. I think he wanted to lick me
Nothing says ‘Authentic camel rides’ like pylons and Land Cruisers.
(I asked Camel Dude to take some pics but he just nabbed a video of the whole thing so I cut some screenshots from it)
We thank the camels, get back and sit in the sheesha lounge for a bit. Huge hauls, trying to get baller tokes like we were back in Instanbul (but that’s a story for another time). The bartender has hit us up 5 times now since we said we’d be back for beer. This time it’s the right time. 4 carlsberg? Yes please. The sun is going down and lanterns come on around the camp.
There’s an announcement that the show is starting and we get back to our seats just as a voluptuous belly dancer takes the stage. Peter sets up his tripod and this catches her eye. She is definitely playing it up for the camera and we get more booty shaking than any other table. Thanks Pete!
After this we go back to the sheesha and work on our bull tokes.
Dinner is a buffet style with decent rice, salads, kebab, doner, shawarma and falafel. It’s better than expected for touristy buffet. While we’re sitting there grubbing a dude with a falcon comes up and asks if we want a picture with it. Sure why not
He then proceeds to ask for money, of course. It works out to something stupid like ten bucks. Peter and I don’t have any dunbucks so we try to get across that we can’t pay. Michaela lays into him a bit, “For a photo? You’ve got to be joking. That’s absurd!” But when she’s not looking, kind-hearted Kelvin steps up and drops him a couple bills.
Another announcement and we’re back to the table for a traditional Sufi whirling dancer. He’s wearing a long colorful skirt that lifts into the air and wavers, hovering just above the ground and then up to his waist as he twirls. It’s mesmerizing. How is this guy not getting dizzy? He spreads out two drums, then somehow turns them into three then four then five then six, holding them in different formations in time with the spinning. He’s a whirling dervish.
His skirt also transforms before our eyes into two and three layers, he starts spinning one with his arm above his head and then in front of him like a shield. Then the lights go out and it lights up with colored LEDs. Super cool.
This guy would make an incredible hand-tossed disco pizza
Next up is a fire spinner. He’s dressed all in black and preps his chained balls, like little morning stars, with flammable liquid. He takes a bunch in his mouth as well and just holds it there. The music kicks off and it’s like traditional Arabian mixed with dubstep. Can’t say I’ve hear anything like it but it works.
This guy is really good. He spins up a hot fury, lots of intricate moves. Actually he blows away any fire spinner I’ve seen at resorts, festivals, Coachella or Cirque de Soliel. Finishes the first set with a sustained fire blast from his mouth the heat of which we can feel from our seats. Damn, he held all of that in his mouth the whole set?
He goes through 3 more sets with various flame weapons. Next are fire chains which look like light sabers, then a fire polearm with 4 torches on each end that he flips and spins. Then some fire tongbas that send sparks and he spits fireballs to his dub step beat while encouraging people to clap. Great showman and crazy talented.
After this act the show is over. We meet Anand back at the Land Cruiser and he tells us it’ll take 45 minutes to get back. “I think you can do it in 35. Straight across the dunes”
He says he does this every day. He really loves driving the dunes but the camp part is boring. There is training for the drivers to get good at the terrain and to learn how to read the dunes. During training you learn the dune shape. 80-90% of the dunes, you know what’s on the other side. Sometimes the tire goes out on a heavy slide though.
And then the song Ghost Busters comes on for the second time today. wtf?
We thank Anand and give him a tip. Back up into the apartment for some gins and we sit to watch the Belgium vs France match. It’s a decent game. I thought Belgium was gonna take it before the match but now they can’t crack the French defense and they’re out.
And so are we. What a long day. Can’t let up though, only got two days to work with really. We still have to get into the old town and see where this futuristic metropolis started. Then there’s that whole tallest building in the world thing. Should probably make time for the Burj Khalifa while we’re here.