Monday, February 23, 2009

Arabian Sands

23 February 2009

(Or, Raven Rides UAE!)

When you leave the property of Madiya's stables outside of Dubai, if you head straight south, you'll eventually end up in Oman or Saudi Arabia.

That's what we did yesterday, headed south into the Arabian Sands (I've been reading this book by Wilfred Thesiger while I'm here), although we only went out for a 3 hour ride.

The Raven and I rode Laila, with Madiya on Opie, and Ali Khan on the gorgeous stallion Solid. It was just an easy walk - although you couldn't say that walking in this sand is easy. Most of it is a fine-grained soft sand that feet sink down in, but Laila seemed to glide over it as if she had snowshoes on, or as if she had padded camel's feet.

The desert here is like a magnet to me - I see the horizon and I want to go there, and I see the next low row of sand hills and I want to go there. All those mysterious names and places out there just waiting to be visited, seen with my own eyes, inhaled and felt with my own being. It MUST have something to do with Thesiger's book - if I were really travelling through the desert on horseback or camelback or on foot, I'd be complaining as soon as the temperature hit 80*, and it was very close to that today.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating place. Here there is a fair amount of tough scrub grasses (Opie liked to eat them), and which must be plenty of sustenance for camels, because we saw a sizeable herd out grazing. Eventually we saw a man sitting in the slim shade of one of the rare trees out here; he was their herder. The camels apparently don't wander too far and don't run away.

Besides the unmistakeable padded tracks of the camel, there were plenty of other mysterious tracks under our feet, which indicate this is a very populated desert. I saw one thing - which must have been a mouse - zip to and dive into a little hole, but it was so fast I didn't see what it actually was. A few times something tiny buried itself in the sand as we approached it. We did see a herd of 2 dozen little deer, and I saw 3 tiny lizards. On the way back we saw two of the larger 18 inch lizards that hole up underground. One used to could hunt them but now they are protected, and people leave hay by their holes.

After an hour and a half, we turned back from the horizon, and headed back to the stables.

Maybe in another life (in one where I don't melt in the heat) I'll come back to cross the Arabian Sands.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Such a different world, in my head i'm thinking...eek! no trees to turn my horse into in case he bolts (you know, away from one of the horse eating camels...)

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous of your experiences! And I love that you share them. I am enamored of the desert and through your eyes may be the only way I see it. Thanks for taking me out of winter and into a different world for a moment!

DarcyLynne said...


Great story with really cool pictures. I would have loved to see a picture of an 18" lizard. I wonder how large they get full grown.

Hope you are having a great time. Not getting to hot. And most of all that you are having the time of your life! :)

Anonymous said...


Arabian Sands is a good book. I just finished the book while on my way home from the convention and I marked many passages. The following passage stands out:

"No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match."

Best Regards,

Tom N