Are you looking for an ecotourism experience in Dubai? There are ecotourism activities in Dubai, just not as many as standard touristy things to do. While ecotourism is not a concept top of mind to every traveller visiting Dubai, for some, the idea of sustainable travel is important and often the motivation behind their travel itinerary. Dubai is a hub of glitz and glamour offering endless touristic activities, and now there is another side to tourism in Dubai that is starting to emerge for the responsible traveller. Platinum Heritage is leading the way for Dubai’s ecotourism industry.
What is Ecotourism
The International Ecotourism Society defines Ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” This is inclusive of both staff and Guests. Interpretation relates to ecotourism promoting a greater understanding and appreciation for the local culture and natural environment.
Ecotourism promotes responsible travel; travellers are attracted to this type of adventure travel as they are able to experience the culture and natural environment of a new place without exploiting it for touristic profits. Usually some of the proceeds generated from this type of travel are pumped directly back into local conservation efforts.
Principles of Ecotourism
Minimise physical, social, behavioural, and psychological impacts of tourism on the local people and natural environment.
Build environmental and cultural awareness, respect and understanding.
Provide direct financial benefits for conservation efforts and local people.
Create memorable and enriching experiences for Guests which helps raise empathetic understanding of a host country’s political, environmental, and social climates.
Use of low-impact operations on the environment (low carbon footprint) such as solar panels.
Benefits of Sustainable Travel
Learn about the culture
As the only ecotourism Desert Safari company in the UAE, our sustainability mission is to conserve the local culture, native animals and natural environment. Our Desert Safaris include traditional cultural entertainment and cuisine from Dubai and we employ local Bedouin who share authentic stories and experiences with Guests.
Travel for a cause
All our wildlife drives operate in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. For every profit made, we donate a percentage to conservation efforts in the area. This means that when you experience one of our Desert Safaris, it’s not only for your enjoyment as part of what you pay for the experience goes directly back to conservation.
Before Dubai was a vibrant city of skyscrapers and fancy cars, there was not much more to see than the desert. Despite the rapid development, the Dubai desert is still one of this destination’s biggest attractions, and you will soon see why when you witness the beauty of the rolling golden sand dunes. Experiencing the desert on a wildlife drive also gives you the chance to see and learn about some of the native animals like the majestic Arabian Oryx.
Platinum Heritage is the only Desert Safari company in Dubai that is focussed on Ecotourism and has 100% in-house staff, trained extensively on conservation and culture of the region. Most Desert Safari companies in Dubai employ freelance Guides, especially during the busy season. The disadvantage of this is that many of these Guides are not well trained and often don’t have the expertise required to conduct excellent Desert Safaris. All of our Guides go through extensive theoretical and practical training headed by our resident Conservationist, Peter Roosenschoon who has years of experience in Conservation and Guiding across Africa and in the UAE.
The role of our Guides is much more than the average Safari Guide in the industry and because of this, we no longer refer to them as ‘Safari Guides’ but rather ‘Conservation Guides.’ Our professionally trained Conservation Guides are on a mission to conserve the history, cultural heritage, local culture and natural environment of Dubai. During all our Desert Safaris, our Conservation Guides share insightful information about Dubai and take you on a journey into the rich culture of its people and share stories and facts about the native fauna and flora of the UAE. During our wildlife drives, our Guests learn about native animals like the Arabian oryx and discover interesting facts about the desert flora like how the fire bush and miswak were used traditionally for the survival of the desert nomads, The Bedouin.
Our Conservation Guides learn about the following topics during their training:
History of Dubai and the UAE
First Aid Training
UAE Road Rules
Desert Conservation Reserve Training
Flora and Fauna Training
Land Rover History
Guiding Skills & Ethics
“Being a Conservation Guide means more about conserving the environment, conserving the culture, conserving the heritage, conserving the Platinum Heritage brand and what we stand for and of course the wildlife.” – Adam McEwan, CEO
Platinum Heritage is the only ecotourism Desert Safari company in the UAE and all our efforts are to promote sustainable travel. The knowledge and expertise of our Conservation Guides is in line with our sustainability mission to preserve the cultural heritage, local industry and native fauna and flora in Dubai. Above all, all our Conservation Guides are very friendly, helpful and eager to share Dubai’s stories with our Guests!
Many people travelling to Dubai during summer wonder whether it is possible to still do a desert safari. What most don’t realise is that the desert is actually cooler than the city in the late afternoons and evenings. This means that it is definitely possible to do a Desert Safari in Dubai during the summer. We have also made a few changes to our desert safaris to accommodate the increase in temperature.
The desert is cooler than the coast at night
The air over a desert is very dry and has extremely low humidity. Water vapor is the most significant greenhouse gas to moderate the earth’s temperature. Since there is so little water in the desert the ground doesn’t retain it’s heat making the desert cooler by up to 7 degrees Celsius at night than the coast. To make the most of being outdoors in the evenings, we offer astronomy as an addition to all our safaris.
Can I visit in Dubai Summer? Yes! Even a desert safari - YouTube
Best Times for a Desert Safari in Dubai in Summer
As the desert sands are dry and it takes longer to heat moisture than air, the desert heats up rapidly in the morning but cools quickly in the late afternoon. This is why we have cancelled our morning tours and offer our Desert Safaris in Dubai in summer during the late afternoon and evenings.
Position of the Desert Camp
Bedouins built their desert camps on top of sand dunes to make the most of the natural breeze as this has a cooling effect. Platinum Heritage has done the same and our desert camp is the only one built on the top of a sand dune. We also make the most of modern comforts and have cooling units in our camp along with offering cold towels.
Air conditioned Desert Safari Vehicles
Feel the breeze in your hair on our signature Heritage Desert Safari in vintage, open-top Land Rovers. If you would prefer a closed air-conditioned car to explore the desert and wildlife, then you can opt for this at no additional charge. You can also choose to upgrade your vehicle to a luxury Range Rover for an extra fee.
This summer we have also added a special edition Emirati Cuisine tasting on our most popular desert safaris. Discover rare delicacies of the region like fresh Arabian oysters, desert truffles and a variety of local cheeses. Our desert safaris continue to operate daily throughout summer and we look forward to you joining us in the desert!
You may assume that the Dubai desert would be hotter than the city in the late afternoons, but this is not the case. Many people don’t realise that not only is it possible to travel to Dubai during summer but in the late afternoons, it is actually cooler in the desert than the city! About two hours before the Arabian sun sets, the temperature in the desert begins to cool down quite rapidly – in fact, it can be as much as 7 to 10 degrees cooler than the city and the coast. The main reason for this is because of the sand.
There’s not a lot of moisture in the sand so this causes the desert to cool down rapidly in the late afternoon and early evenings. Because of this, exploring the desert in the late afternoon during the summer is one of the best things to do during a trip to Dubai. Bedouin, groups of nomadic natives who inhabited the desert regions, adapted to the desert climate accordingly – traditionally their desert camps were built on sand dunes in order to catch the breeze of the late afternoon. The tents are specifically designed to allow air to circulate within them, keeping them cool. Animal hair is also usually used to insulate the tents which keeps them cooler during the day.
Tourists tend to prefer to visit Dubai during the winter months when the temperature is cooler, but with the right information and planning the summer can be a great time of year to visit. During your time in Dubai, you can explore the desert in luxury air-conditioned Range Rovers or feel the breeze in your hair in open-air vintage Land Rovers. Visit an authentic Bedouin camp to enjoy a relaxing evening under the Arabian starry night-sky in cool and comfortable traditional majilis nestled in the Dubai desert. This is an opportunity to soak up the rich culture and catch a glimpse of the authentic side of Dubai. Escape the heat of the city and get out into the desert this summer!
Our Summer Desert Safaris includes a special edition Emirati Cuisine Tasting. In addition to the usual wildlife drives, cultural entertainment, falconry and delicious Arabic feasts, enjoy a rare delicacies tasting in an authentic Bedouin camp. Compare the desert truffle with the European truffle and sample some of the region’s lesser-known delicacies like fresh Arabian oysters from the Gulf Sea prepared traditionally, and a variety of local cheeses.
Seasoned travellers know that sampling the local cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about the native culture and history of a country they are visiting. Local delicacies tell interesting stories about a place, and they are usually something rare, unusual or distinctive, which makes them all the more desirable and sophisticated. In Argentina they eat carne asado with chimichurri – cuts of meat prepared Argentinian-style; in Iceland the locals eat fermented pieces of shark meat called Hakarl and the Greeks are known for their spanakopita which is like a spinach and feta pie. In a previous post we highlighted the main features of Emirati Cuisine, but what are some of the lesser-known delicacies from this region?
A lesser-known delicacy of the region is the desert truffle. Sometimes confused with a dessert truffle, it is from the same family as the European truffle but slightly different in flavour. These fungi are said to have a high protein and low-fat content and are a good source of energy. According to Bedouin legend, thunderstorms and lighting strikes are believed to be the catalysts to the formation of these desert truffles which only grow in the wild. Bedouin believed that the number and size of the truffle depends on the frequency and the strength of the rain. Nowadays these delicacies are not easy to find and come at quite a price.
Oysters are a culinary treat all across the world and have featured in the region’s cuisine for some time. Located on a coastline, Dubai originated as a fishing village. For thousands of years fishing and pearl diving in the Arabian Gulf was the dominant trade and the basic source of income that most locals relied on. Oysters were plucked fresh from the ocean and prepared either naturelle or grilled with a garlic butter sauce.
Many people aren’t aware that the first traces of cheese were discovered in a Middle Eastern pot over 4,000 years ago. Most Middle Eastern cheeses are white and some are preserved in a strong brine. From akkawi, to shanklish, to nabulsi, to arrish, there is a huge variety of cheeses from this region. In Dubai it is not easy to get your hands on artisanal cheese which carry the stories of the age-old traditions of the Middle East. Most cheese sold in the supermarkets are packaged in anonymous plastic tubs quite disconnected from their heritage with no character or story. The best way to sample and learn about the delicious cheeses from this region is in the home of locals or at dedicated Emirati cuisine tastings.
For many people, part of travelling to a new country is to discover the local cuisine. You can learn a lot about the history and the culture of a place through the traditional food and local delicacies.
If you would like to discover more about the local flavours of the UAE, download our Emirati Cuisine Cookbook which is packed with some of the best recipes from this region. During summer this year we will be running a special edition Emirati cuisine tasting on all our desert safaris. Taste fresh oysters prepared traditionally, compare desert truffles with European truffles and sample a variety of delicious local cheeses.
Suhoor, known as the pre-dawn meal in English is a significant element for Muslims during Ramadan. It is the last meal before the sun rises and the day of fasting begins. This meal is very important as fasters need to make sure they eat enough to ensure that they have sustained energy for the day ahead, especially for those who are still working during Ramadan.
Muslims are advised to make sure they wake up for Suhoor to prevent them from feeling weak or dehydrated during the day. Usually, the meal should contain all the nutrients needed by the body including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals with easily digestible foods so that it doesn’t cause any stomach discomfort. Complex carbs are often the main component of the meal to extend energy levels. This time is also an opportunity to drink a lot of water to decrease levels of thirst during the day ahead.
Culturally it is more than just a meal and usually on the weekends, family and friends make an event out of it. They meet to socialise, enjoy the last meal together and wait for prayer time before the fast starts. Friends and family will gather and spend a few hours of quality time together relaxing, eating, playing games and smoking shisha. Even if you are not fasting, anyone is welcome to come along and experience Suhoor and Iftar. In fact, it’s a wonderful way to get into the spirit of the holy month for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
You’re all excited for your Dubai getaway. Then you realize something: your dates fall during Ramadan. Now, you’re worried you might somehow inconvenience the locals (or be inconvenienced yourself).
Don’t worry, you don’t need to change your plans. In fact, this might just prove to be the best time of the year to visit.
From the unusually quiet life of the city to non-crowded malls to discounts you can’t get at any other time of the year, Ramadan presents a perfect time for exploring Dubai.
If you love food, then you definitely want to know all about Iftar––a period characterised with all-you-can-eat feasts, games, socializing, and lots of other fun activities.
What is Iftar?
Islam is characterized by Five Pillars of Faith, one of which is the pious act of fasting. For this reason, during the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims don’t eat or drink during the day. They practice strict fasting, abstaining from not just food but also other acts such as drinking, smoking, sex and false deeds, talk, and even thoughts. And, no, they can’t even chew gum.
This is the meal that breaks their fast at the end of the day. It’s also known as sawm and begins just after sunset. They also have another meal before the fasting day begins i.e. pre-dawn. This is known as the suhoor.
Traditionally, Muslims break the fast with a light meal such as dates and water or yoghurt. After the Maghrib prayer (this is the prayer just after sunset), they can have a full-course meal. Typically, this includes soup, appetizers, salad and the main dishes. While most people start preparing for the full-course meal right after Maghrib, some cultures delay it till later in the evening or even early the next morning.
At its core, Iftar is a social event that involves the family and members of the community coming together.
It’s standard for Muslims to invite others to share the dinner with them or gather the community for a potluck. And anyone can be invited. It’s common to see non-Muslims feasting with Muslims during Iftar. This hand also extends to the less fortunate in the community. During Ramadan, the spiritual reward for charitable giving is held in very high regard.
When you get invited
Again, it’s very common for Muslims to invite non-Muslims to enjoy Iftar. So, if you happen to be in Dubai during Ramadan, there’s a high chance you’ll be invited to dinner, especially if you’ve already made a few friends.
So, what do you do when you get invited?
The first thing is to accept the invitation. When it’s time, bring a present like dates, sweets, or any Arabic desserts that you can find. Just don’t go empty-handed. You can also use the time to volunteer some time and help out setting up the tents that serve Iftar.
If you get an invitation, consider yourself lucky. Not only is this a chance for you to build stronger relationships over a hearty meal, but it can also help you better understand the culture and embrace the holy month of Ramadan.
Enjoy Iftar your own way
While an invitation is nice, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying your own Iftar dinner while in Dubai during Ramadan. Restaurants all across the city serve Iftar, ranging from decadent, multi-course meals to humble, traditional offerings to, yes, even vegan Iftars.
This way, if you’re traveling to the country with family, friends, or by yourself, you don’t need to know any locals in order to embrace the unique local Ramadan culinary culture.
For local residents living in Dubai, it is common to attend Iftars with family, friends and colleagues. It is a great way to learn about Islamic culture and experience some of the traditions of Ramadan.
Experience an authentic 1950’s Bedouin Iftar with us
If you’re visiting Dubai and are not sure what to expect or how to behave while there, we wrote an ebook on how to celebrate Ramadan in Dubai . It’s long enough to cover everything and short enough to allow you fast reading. It’s your best bet for a great Ramadan experience in Dubai.
At Platinum Heritage we host traditional Iftars in our authentic Bedouin camps in the desert all through Ramadan. Join us for one of these delicious feasts and taste some of the mouth-watering traditional dishes like lamb ouzi and luqeymat.