It was a cold and rainy day in Sharjah when we were supposed to go on the desert safari with Mleiha Sharjah. Throughout the day we kept wondering if the Safari would take place or not? Luckily for us the weather did not affect the desert safari in Sharjah with Mleiha.
I have now done desert safaris both in Dubai and Sharjah, both have their pluses. My vote goes to doing it in Sharjah if you are looking for a peaceful experience. However if you need belly dancing and crowd, you need to go to Dubai.
We started out in a Land Cruiser to the desert near Mleiha. Mleiha offers many other activities like star gazing, hiking etc. apart from the safari. They also have the Mleiha Archiological Center from where the safaris start. We did the Fossil Rock + The Camel Rock option.
Due to my previous experience in Dubai I knew that I would be affected by motion sickness so I took my medicine about 45 minutes before the start of the safari. Avomine leaves me sleepy but I have no option because otherwise I get nauseous with in no time. So, if you have motion sickness do remember that desert safaris can trigger nausea.
It had rained before in Sharjah, the sand was wet when we went for the drive. They were using land cruisers for the trip. There is a strict instruction to keep your seatbelts on all the time when you are inside the car and there is a reason for it. On the steep turns the vehicle may overturn. The seat belt will keep you safe. All the vehicles are reinforced so that they can take the flips if it ever happens.
We asked our driver, who was from Bangladesh, if he had ever flipped. He replied in the negative but added he had seen other vehicles flipping and nothing happens as everyone is using seat belts and the vehicles modified for it.
It was extremely cold and windy on the day we did the safari. We got out for a minute of the vehicle both at the Camel Rock and the Fossil Rock. Then we would run back say to the safety of it after clicking some pictures. The mind boggles at the thought that the vast stretch of desert was under sea ages ago! There was not much of a sunset so we missed out on it. In my view the safari got over far too quickly and we were headed back to the city for our dinner!
What do you say if 5 plates out of 15 are desserts in my collage from Sharjah? Well, I don’t need to look far as to why I don’t lose weight anymore! I could find vegetarian food in Sharjah. Most of my meals in Sharjah were in hotel buffets. There was a reason for this. On the FAM there were bloggers as well as travel agents. When travel agents are part of the group, you get to see a lot of hotels. And the hotels then mostly host us for lunch or dinner! I ate at Royal Tulip Act, where I stayed, Sheraton Sharjah, Oceanic Khorfakkan, Golden Tulip Sharjah and Zahr El Laymoun, which is a restaurant. I also had a lunch Sultan Saray, Ajman.
Arabic cuisine has fantastic mezze meal which has Pita Bread (Kuboos), hummus, Babaghanoush, fattoush, olives, falafel etc which for me is good enough as meal. However it is otherwise treated as starters.
They also make excellent lentil soup. The bread selection at all the hotels was good. For me the starters and soup and bread were quite filling in itself. I could easily find rice at most of the buffets. Arabic bread feels like roti.
But then what happens when the novelty wears off after a few days? I could always find rice at the counters, sometimes we would pour the lentil soup over it as it tasted like our दाल (curry). But I did not see dedicated vegetarian counters in the hotels. There were live pasta counters at some buffets and they were popular with vegetarians.
In desserts all kind of pastry was available. There were a few local desserts that I tried but I remember the name of only one, the most popular known as Umm Ali. If you don’t believe me you can google the name and see if it is a dessert or not. It is made of puff pastry and condensed milk!
But the most rocking thing I had was Arabic Coffee with dates. It is kept in the hotels around the reception area for the guests. The cups are small and the coffee is black and bitter. But it is to be taken with dates (not the valentine day dates but dates as in खजूर) which counters the bitter taste. I wonder how I managed to miss it in Dubai!
So overall I was fine in Sharjah as a vegetarian. I have a feeling that if we went to more restaurants rather than hotel buffets, probably it would be easier to find more variety in vegetarian food.
I sat down to write how to travel from Sharjah to Ajman by bus! And then I realized that all I know is that I traveled between the two points somehow! I didn’t have data on my mobile in Sharjah and that I can now say is a handicap! I didn’t know the distances or time that it would take.
The trip happened more due to serendipity than anything else. I was standing at the Central Souq in Sharjah when I noticed a Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus. A friendly Filipino girl came out of the bus and told me they had an Ajman Tour too. It interested me, Ajman is closest Emirates to Sharjah. But as the HOHO Bus had one hour service between two points in Ajman, I gave it a miss.
I moved on, and walking randomly I exited close to Al Jubail Bus Station in Sharjah. At the spur of the moment I decided to go to Ajman. I tried to find the ticket counter at the bus stop. I was told by a friendly soul that I could buy a ticket on the bus! I boarded a bus that said Ajman. The staff asked me where I wanted to go in Ajman and I said “city center” meaning the center of the city. They directed me to another bus.
The staff in the other bus spoke with me in Hindi or Urdu as both sound similar. I requested them to tell me when to get off. The fare was 5 Dirham. In the Sharjah buses the ladies seats are at the front. Which bus was that? I didn’t notice the number. But I can say for sure that even if you appear clueless, like me, at the Al Jubail Bus Stop they will still guide you to the correct bus.
When my stop came, the driver told me. I realized City Center was a mall and not the city center of Ajman, not sure if it is in Sharjah or Ajman! But where ever it is, it is close to the Ajman Beach.
I asked a person in the mall who tried to sell me gold about the Ajman Beach. He said I could take a taxi from outside. The trouble was I didn’t exactly know where I wanted to go and how big was Ajman Beach!
Anyway I hailed a taxi and told him I wanted to go to the beach. I also told him I was new to the city and I was looking for lunch. He was a Pakistani, most of the taxi drivers are. We amiably chatted till I reached the beach. I also asked him where could I take a bus back to Sharjah? He told me to hail any taxi and ask them to drop me to a Sharjah Bus Stop.
I went to walk by the beach a little and then sat for lunch. After lunch I hailed a taxi, again the driver was a young Pakistani. I told him I wanted to go back to Sharjah by bus! He stopped at a bus stop and told me to go and ask if it was the correct bus. It was a road side stop with two buses waiting. I said I would pay, but he said no go ask first and if it is your bus come back and pay. Or else I will drop you to Sharjah. It was the correct bus. I told the bus driver not to go as I had to pay the taxi. His assistant threw some tantrums saying the bus was leaving but I told him I had a flight to catch. I ran back, paid the taxi, thanked him and boarded the bus. I know this was bus no 14 but I do not know the name of the bus stop in Ajman from where I boarded it! The bus ride was uneventful otherwise.
It dropped me close to Al Jubail but it didn’t go inside the terminus. I realized it was a city bus! There is a city bus service up to Ajman! Now I only need to find the correct routes and go there next time without taking any taxis. Or else I could actually take a taxi all the way to the beach, it is not that far from Sharjah, according to Google Maps it is less than 10 kilometers!
Also you can see how good I am at giving directions. If you would follow my advice, to go to Ajman by bus, Al Jubail, Sharjah could be your starting point. Once you turn up at Al Jubail just ask around! But there are many stops in Ajman so know where you wish to get off! If you need more precise directions, ask someone else!
I recently had the experience of flying Delhi Sharjah Delhi with Air Arabia. Air Arabia is a budget airline with A320 planes in their fleet.
They have three type of fares, basic, value and extra. The basic fare includes the ticket and 10 kg hand luggage allowance. The value fare includes 30 kg checked in baggage and a sandwich with water. The extra fare includes 40 kg checked in luggage, hot meal, any seat with flexibility for modification and cancellation. You can check out the destinations they fly to from this link, Sharjah is their hub.
I would suggest you check-in online for a smooth experience at the airport. The flights I took were nearly full, so the queue for normal check-in was long both at Delhi and Sharjah Airports. However, as I did online check-in, my lines were short. At Delhi there was no one in the online queue. In Sharjah there was a short queue at the online counter which moved quickly.
For airport security, do remember that at Sharjah they do the retina scanning as part of security procedure. At the moment Sharjah Airport doesn’t have free WiFi.
Both my flights landed before time which was a thing of joy! The seating is 3X3 and comfortable. I had window seats both the times. The in-flight entertainment on this leg is through common TVs. There was Mr. Bean, Just for Laugh Gags, Destination based documentaries and more. On the return I slept peacefully for one and a half hours. I woke up only when they announced the descent to Delhi!
A 320 is a popular aircraft and many budget airlines use it. However Air Arabia gives 32 inches of seat space instead of the standard 28. Many airlines operate the same aircraft with 180 seats whereas Air Arabia does it with 165 seats.
There is food for sale on board. You can pay both in Indian rupees and Dirhams. Water is paid too. My meals were booked online but I did buy tea on my return flight, it was 7 Dirhams. I had Masala Dosa while going and Veg Biryani while coming back.
While going there were two gentlemen next to me who did not speak English. They wanted water and Chicken Biryani. They thought the water was free. When they realized that it was paid they said they didn’t want it. The cabin crew serving at that moment didn’t speak Hindi. So, I was the unofficial interpreter. I told the cabin crew they don’t want the water. They said they have entered it in their system, they can’t change it now. So, I paid for the water and everyone went home happy!
I had comfortable flights with Air Arabia. Even though they sponsored my tickets, the ground and the cabin crew had no inkling of it, I was treated like any other normal passenger. And I was treated well. If you are looking for a value for money airline to fly to UAE and beyond, do consider Air Arabia.