It'll be an early start, but it will be worth it. Your day will begin in the desert, in the small hours before dawn. Immersed in velvet-black darkness, the silence is broken by a gas torch, and the balloon slowly begins to take shape. You climb into the basket, and a few minutes later, there is that magical moment when you are no longer bound to the earth by gravity, but floating in a new dimension.
As the world below you begins to shrink, a kaleidoscope of colours unfolds around you, while the sun rises on the distant horizon and begins its climb. You glance down and the desert becomes alive with vibrant tones of red, orange, yellow and pink sand. The clean air provides sharp views of dunes, and occasional oases brimming with life, contrasting with the desolate desert. The majestic Hajjar Mountains provide a magnificent frame to the scene, far away on the horizon. And if you are lucky you may even spot camels, gazelles or the native oryx, as they make their way across the lonely landscape.
As the air temperature begins to rise, the balloon's buoyancy decreases, and eventually your descent begins, gently taking you back towards the earth. At last, you touch the ground. Inevitably, you look up at the blue above you, and you think, I was up there… As Leonardo wrote in his notebooks, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Whether you are a devoted fan or simply on your first free-flight experience, there is no doubt that air sports have a unique enchantment. Free flight does not mean you have to follow in the footsteps of Icarus or Felix Baumgartner. In fact, since 1782, the hot air balloon has peacefully carried many a traveller across cloudless skies and wondrous landscapes. In a city where modernity reigns, take a break from the hustle and bustle and savour this remarkable experience, nature seen from a new viewpoint. And in the United Arab Emirates, this nature, though set in a desert, possesses its own hypnotic fascination.
The U.A.E. extends over 83,000 square kilometres, of which only a small percentage is inhabited. The rest is taken up by the purity of the desert, stretching as far as the eye can see. An almost mystical sight, particularly when you are sharing the sky with buzzards and desert eagle owls.
Balloon Adventures LLC P.O. Box 76888, Dubai, Tel. +971 (0)4 2854 949, www.ballooning.ae/