If you had the chance, would you want to go to a luxury resort in the middle of the desert? There is this place situated in the desert dunes, one hour from Dubai, which is a 5* property called Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa. The setting is designed as an Arab fort with sand dunes, low rise buildings, rustic comfort and of course oasis with water. One should have no illusions because creature comfort is sold here, for a price, of course.
However, I heard from a desert fox that there was a huge, outdoor restaurant that put on a grand show, every night. Camels, sheep, Arabian horses, native entertainment and belly dancing were offered to the interested traveler. Of course, the prospect of interacting with camels, whilst eating, was an opportunity I could not miss. I also seemed to remember stories about the pure seduction of belly dancing. Mind you, the thought of an evening with camels and sheep would always far outweigh the joys of watching boring belly dancing.
We decided to leave our Arabian stallions at home and instead took a Toyota Corolla out into the desert darkness, with its canopy of bright stars. When I joined the Suja Team of Writers I made a pledge to myself. I would never write about restaurants or meals or hotels. The restaurant was outdoors and consisted of tables set on carpets in the sand, with the food preparation on one end and the entertainment section on the other. The food filled my tummy, and if you want to know more about the property, I am sure Suja Travel can help. However, I really want to talk about entertainment and belly dancing….
Music was provided by a trio, consisting of a violin, electric organ, and drums with every instrument amplified. The music was definitely Arabic with the violin delivering a constant, repetitive wailing that somehow seemed the same for every number. I suspect that the words, which I did not understand, were far more important than the supporting music. The lighting was dim and the repetitive nature of the music made me look at Arab ladies smoking water pipes as completely normal. Was it me, or do water pipes deliver huge clouds of smoke when exhaled? I looked in interest at the smoking ladies and they looked at me in my Arab white, kandura robe. I suppose I was just as strange to them, as they were to me. For a few precious moments, I felt like I was an Arab chief, then lost the feeling, and fast when a waiter spoke to me in Arabic. I mumbled an incoherent response and he went away. I won the first round..:) So much for blending into the landscape.
Suddenly the lights went out and a huge wall of sand, some 200-300 feet long was illuminated behind the stage and the history of Arab civilization was created in perhaps 15-20 minutes. Hordes of horsemen on trusty steeds battled with swords before peace came to the land. Then the caravans of camels came as trade became a feature of daily life. Finally the sheepherders and their flocks completed the cycle. The musical score was thunderous and the cast of man and beast was large. The dream then faded into the present as the violinist came back on stage and showed that he was no slouch when it came to music. Then a super display of fireworks. Then dancers and actors. The entertainment was non-stop.
Of course, the belly dancing had to be the ultimate entertainment. A tall dark-haired goddess came out on stage and proceeded to twist, shake, squirm and generally make her body an instrument of desire, for every red-blooded male in the audience. The most interesting fact of all, was when I learned she was Russian ( yep, a Russian..:)). Somehow that left me speechless and still does, for that matter.
Leaving the property and driving back to Dubai the sky was alive with stars. In a small way, I can perhaps understand the Bedouin attraction to the desert. It is a universe all by itself.
Driving back to Dubai, I was astounded by the huge number of Arab men who were parked in the sand along the side of the road, with fires, roasting meat. They understand far better than I what it means to be a man of the desert. To me, this was the real music of the night.
It was an evening of mixed feelings, emotions and recognition. As a Canadian, we have such a short history. The Arab of the Desert is immortal. I walked in history and understood just a little. That made me happy and sad at the same time. But, travel made me think and travel won. The desert will remain long after I have left.