I Want to Be Mubarak Bin Basel

Following the camel-steps of Sir Wilfred Thesiger I ended up in Al-Ain’s fort Al Jahili, once a real defensive structure that housed the Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, credited for the unification of today’s United Arab Emirates. The fort did not resemble fully the one photographed by Thesiger in the 1940’s but certainly provoked my admiration. Its renovated German cold engineered walls combined with local artisan architectural techniques cooled my stay and made me forget the outdoors’ forty-five degree desert summer while roaming the exhibitions about the Sheikh and Thesiger. The latter one’s photos and narratives, nicknamed Mubarak Bin London by his two local comrades during their epic trek throughout the Empty Quarter in Arabia, made me fantasize of velvety desert dunes, idyllic oasis, and Sheherazade’s stories to the Sultan Shahriar in the ‘Book of One Thousand Nights and a Night’. Therefore, as like as Mubarak Bin London I wanted to be the blessed one from Basel! The next day I embarked on a desert safari and bashed the dunes on board of a modern fully equipped SUV driven by a skilled Indian pilot who made us feel dizzy in a suburban Dubai City desert. The SUV had air conditioning and plastic bags for every passenger in case of sudden carsickness requirements. After a short stop on the highest dune for a group picture we continued on desert trails first and a motorized highway afterwards until a fenced area, where multiple compounds serving as show attractions for three hundred people per compound, appeared. Before entering the artificial desert camp, I got a ten meter camel ride and a picture to testify such endeavor. Once inside, I was offered Arabic delights for dinner and a belly dance show, but in between a Psy’s Gangnam Style song rocked at least two hundred fifty of my two hundred and ninety-nine camp mates. Two hours later all scheduled camp shows finished and my tourist mates disappeared into the fifty SUVs to return back to their Dubai accommodations. Finally I was alone in the desert night! The compound cleaning and lights turn off took another two hours and only then I could experience the darkness, but certainly not the silence. Dubai’s international airport was not farther away than fifty miles, and my desert bed was below its approach traffic. That night I could experience how vast was Emirates fleet. Back to my hotel room and despite the divergences of my adventure and Thesiger’s, I managed to live the desert, its solitude, and the magic in it, and my wish to become Mubarak Bin Basel is still intact.


Al Jahili fort


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One Response to I Want to Be Mubarak Bin Basel

  1. camela says:

    One Thousand and One Sweaty nights in desert – sounds like a good trip! 🙂

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