To experience what walking people get to experience, sometimes wheelchair users have to take some risks. The risk I took yesterday was leaving my wheelchair at the hostel with people I had just met that morning. This was so that I could experience the desert 🌵 tour and camel 🐫 riding. My wheelchair could not fit into the van for the desert tour because the driver had every seat filled and could not flap the backseats down to allow room for my wheelchair. Sadaqat, the driver/tour guide, said I couldn’t use my wheelchair on the sand anyway so I should just leave it. He was right, but that meant I couldn’t use the restroom and get out and get some air when the group was riding their ATVs around the desert. Once we arrived at the desert, Sadaqat let everyone out and gestured for me to stay put. I sat in the car for nearly an hour before we officially started the desert tour.
The rest of the experience was great, though. Sadaqat rode the big van like a roller coaster, going up and down and sideways in the sand dunes. The rest of us were all screaming while he drove while he wore a shy smirk on his face . Afterwards we went to ride the camels. It was a very short ride, but an interesting experience nonetheless.
Dinner was included in the tour package along with belly and fire🔥dancing performances while we ate. Dinner was a mixed of fried potatoes 🥔 and vegetables. There was grilled lamb, chicken 🍗, salads 🥗, rice 🍛, noodles 🍝 and a few other dishes. The taste, with the exception of one dish, was not great, but the experience was wonderful. Sadaqat was so thoughtful. He knew, since I didn’t have my wheelchair with me, I could not go grab the buffet style food. He had waiters bring me three to four kinds of soft drinks 🍹 and all the types of food they had at the buffet. After it was all delivered, I had a table full of food all to myself. Good thing I was sitting to a really great Philippino family. I insisted that they help me eat the food. Sadaqat, himself, even checked on me several times and brought me food.
Because of his traditional Muslim wear, broken English and very soft spoken ways, I was very hesitant about starting my journey without a wheelchair and about how I was going to communicate with him. But towards the end of our time together, he was reading my mind. For instance, after the appetizers came during dinner, I thought that was it because the main course took so long to arrive. So I told Michael, my Philippino table mate, to go find Sadaqat so that I can sit in the car and wait for the group to finish before we were driven home. I was worried about my bag in the car. It had my passport, money, cell phone and wallet. And since Sadaqat didn’t lock the car when I was sitting in there earlier, I didn’t know if he locked it this time.
Sadaqat finally came by my table. When I told him I wanted to go sit in the car and wait by myself, he asked, “are you worried about your bag?” without me even saying anything. I guiltily admitted yes, because I was afraid I was offending him somehow. He went to get my bag and I ate the rest of the meal in peace with my very smiley 😃 Philippino family. After the performances and meals were over, Sadaqat drove the car right beside my table without me asking. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness. This soft spoken, demure man was the best desert 🌵tour guide a girl in a wheelchair could ask for to experience these Arabian days.