Desert Series: Camping

A year in Saudi Arabia (never mind a year… a visit to Saudi Arabia!) isn’t complete without a desert camping experience!

So far I’ve been quad biking in the Red Sands…

I’ve been on several hash runs…

And now… camping!!!

There are several ways to camp in the desert…

Under the stars at night beside a fire…(sounds dreamy but it gets cold in the desert at night!!!!! Plus it’s sandy. And sand gets EVERYWHERE!)

Or… spending the night in a traditional Bedouin tent… A really legit way to get a true Saudi desert experience!

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Or… I was lucky to combine those 2 methods… plus… sleep in a temperature controlled caravan in a room with a king sized bed and a full bathroom complete with rain shower!!

My first desert camping experience was a very spontaneous trip… that happened to fall on the coldest weekend of the year!!! The temperature hovered right around freezing out in the desert. Between 0-5 degrees… and that desert wind just cuts right through you!!!

And… as the trip was so spontaneous… I didn’t have time to pack much to take along, and also didn’t expect it to be as cold as it was. I spent most of the night bundled up wearing a sweater, leather jacket, covered by a down filled puffy jacket that’s supposed to keep you warm at Mount Everest temperatures… and then even a traditional Saudi fur robe!!imageBut braving the cold was absoutely worth it…  I sat outside underneath a black sky filled with brilliant stars, beside a blissfully warm fire …

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I sipped cool drinks beside a bed of coals seated on rugs in a traditional bedouin tent… listening to a musician play haunting arabic music…

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And eventually I went to sleep, tucked into a cozy king sized bed in a nice warm caravan.

The next morning when I awake, it was still freezing cold. When I thought I’d take a nice hot shower to warm out, I couldn’t get the water to warm up!!! Ao I had to take a tepid at best shower… which only enhanced the cold!!!

But… then I went and lounged back in the tent for a while in front of the fire.. sipped a gorgeous Turkish coffee… filled my belly with a beautiful breakfast… and suddenly I wasn’t so cold anymore!!

And then it was time to play… quad bikes… dune buggies… It’s been at last 5 whole months since I last sat behind the “wheel” of anything… and I LOVE driving … so living in Saudi where I can’t drive has been a challenge for me!! But… Now I’m here… out in the desert… on private property… and I can drive a dune buggy!!  A wonderful powerful machine to tear up the dunes…

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We tore up and down and round in circles in the beautiful red/orange sand dunes…. cruising freely around without a care in the world…

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It was incredible!! And I just can’t get enough of this beautiful desert!! The red sands… sculpted by the winds… ever changing… constantly in motion…  like waves of sand…

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And that was my first desert camping experience. In January. In the cold. A bit windy with a constant haze in the distance from blowing sand… But gorgeous!!!!

The second time I camped out in the desert it was  months later and so much warmer!! It was beautiful…

I met some friends out at the camp and  we ate a delicious dinner  prepared by the camp chefs… and after dinner, went and sat at the edge of the traditional Bedouin tent and watched a movie play on a massive screen blown up a few feet away from the tent…. A private outdoor “cinema”… what is this world I live in?!!

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The next morning we set up a little shooting range and took turns shooting some bottles set up in the dunes… so fun!! My aim is TERRIBLE… but I felt pretty dangerous!! (I probably was actually with my terrible aim :P)

Did a lot of just lounging around and relaxing in the sun… which felt absolutely gorgeous and just baked into your bones… a nice mid 20 degrees day…  Soaked up the sun lounging near the previous nights fire… gazing out at the mystical desert in the distance…

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And… of course… quad bikes, motorbikes, and dune buggies again… zipping around like maniacs…

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We found camels this time!! A few wandering through the dunes and the salty flat areas… looking for bits of vegetation… not much here though!!!

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While we were out on the dune buggies… the sky grew dark… clouds gathered….

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And then… nearly the best part: a surprise rain shower at the end of the day… just a gentle misting of rain… a faint but beautiful rainbow just faintly showing through… just a little reminder… It was amazing.

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(note the “shooting range”… our target practice in the middle of the pic? 😛

So, the was the last time I went camping in the desert… and honestly, just writing about it now makes me want to go back again!! It is so calm and quiet and peaceful out there. The weeks in Saudi are long and busy and so stressful… and the weekends are never long enough, especially when they’re filled with parties and fun and not nearly enough downtime! So being out in the desert forces you to slow down, relax, enjoy the moment and seriously destress!

(Now it’s June as I’m writing this and its a good 40-45 degrees every day… more in the sun… so desert camping is a dim memory and something to look forward to in the relatively distant future!)

Next up… My first trip back home!!!

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