Hot air balloon Dubai : flying over the Arabic desert at dawn waiting for the sun to colour the sand dunes. Welcome on board of Ballooning Dubai.
Sunrise in the desert is surreal. A kaleidoscope of colours and emotions, framed by absolute silence. A sea made of sand dunes instead of waves, camels proceeding stealthily instead of fishes. An infinite sea.
We are inside Rub al-Khali, in Arab ‘the empty quarter’, the biggest continuous sand desert in the world. 650.000 square kilometres of dunes and one of the most unexplored and unreachable places on our planet.
At night it gets cold in the desert. Lights run low and the silence amplifies every sensation. Almost like embodying a sand grain, people realize how small the human being is in comparison to Earth and Nature.
The first light that shines is an intense flare. The fire is inflating the hot air balloon, still sitting on the floor, lifeless. Slowly, though, it starts to transform into a beautifully coloured sphere, so big in its dimensions. The balloon’s physics is simple: hot air tends to go on top of cold air, so it lifts the balloon and all its lucky guests, about to experience the most beautiful sunrise. Our 1-hour journey doesn’t cover just the desert, but also some Bedouin villages with camel farms and cultivated plots.
The desert, the real one, starts right afterwards, and magically shows up when the sun rises from the Al Hajar Mountains.
Gold covers the dunes’ summit and the first shadows start framing the sand like an abstract painting. From gold to orange, to ochre, pink and even violet. The scenery changes every minute, gradually, as the sun starts its journey in the sky.
We see a family of Arabian Oryx, a horned antelope that was extinct in 1972 and then was reintroduced in some areas of the Arabian desert. There’s also a convoy of camels (the Arabian camel or dromedary), walking in a perfect line, with their slow but steady pace. I wonder, how many kilometers will they walk? Where will they go?
In the meantime, the balloon has reached up to 4000 feet. The blurry horizon starts burning. The view is obviously incredible but what impresses the most is the silence. No other transportation means lets you fly in absolute silence, swinging with the soft wind.
And we get to experience the world’s first falconry in the air show. The peregrine falcon starts flying around the balloon and he will follow us for a while. A wonderful creature, they explain, with an innate intelligence and a unique instinct based solely on his sight. If their eyes are covered, they lose 80% of their senses and fall in a sleeplike status. It’s the fastest animal on earth, and also one of the most expensive. In fact, a falcon can cost up to 20.000 dollars. The elegance of this bird, though, is unreachable and let us experience something really mesmerizing.
The balloon is now completely surrounded by the desert, there’s nothing else in sight. Slowly we start descending. The landing procedure is easy but needs everyone’s attention. Buckled up with a seatbelt attached to the basket, everyone has to bend their knees in order for the balloon to stop on the sand. The sun is really high at this point and the temperature has risen at least of 15 degrees.
Platinum Heritage also organizes a magnificent breakfast in full Arab style inside the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. We cross the gates and hop on a vintage Land Rover, then drive through the dunes in the northern direction.
Breakfast is served in an area decorated with coloured carpets, pillows and wonderful views on the surrounding desert. The Arab culture is traditionally very welcoming and hospitable. At the entrance, while we wash our hands with rose water, they serve us Arab coffee, as dark as one could imagine, and chewy dates. The buffet then goes on with eggs benedict, salmon and fresh fruit.
Balloon Adventures Dubai has been flying in the sky of the United Arab Emirates since 2005 with the best pilots in the world. All pilots have the European Union Pilot License and their balloons experience regular checks.
The hot air balloon experience is organized by Balloon Adventures Dubai in collaboration with Platinum Heritage, every day from September to May. We recommend to bring something warm for the early hours in the desert and to strictly follow the pilot’s instructions.
Pictures by Tancredi Biondi Santi