Three forms of recreation that I found in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are falcon training, riding camels and dune dragging.
The Bedouin lived for millennia in the desert, a harsh, unforgiving place that required developing every available tool for harvesting its scarce resources. The ultimate hunting weapon in such an austere environment: falcons. Today, even as Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become rich, the old ways persist, and behind almost every camel stable and desert retreat is an aviary of saker falcons. Though hunting is severely restricted in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, (falconers travel to hunt with their birds in places like Syria or Iraq), the birds must be flown and trained daily.
I also learned a lot about camels. A camel’s hump does not store water. It stores fat, lessening heat-trapping insulation around the rest of the body. One reason camels can go long periods without water is the shape of their red blood cells. These are oval and so will flow when they are dehydrated rather than clumping, as ours do. The camel is the only mammal to have oval red blood cells. We were told by our guide that the hump stores the food and the legs store the water-enough for one month!
In terms of the dune dragging, this is something that people love to do and for good reason! You have to let a lot of air out of your tires to do it so the car is more stable in the sand. The danger, of course, is that occasionally you can get stuck (pictured!). After you are finished, you pump your tires back up-everyone keeps the equipment in their car. I also learned that you should always go with at least two cars- so if you get stuck, you can pull each other out! Of course as these two areas grow, there is less and less desert that is wild and free.