Up, Up And Away
There is something romantic about hot air balloons. I’m not sure why, but the best ones always seem to be over desert terrain. On more than one occasion I’ve stopped along the highway to watch them drift overhead in the hushed whoosh of a warm desert breeze, and from my point of view, I certainly wanted to go for a ride.

Sinbad Balloons operates out of Dubai and has been doing so for a number of years. Once we had a look at the services that were on offer, booking was easy and within minutes we had realised that this was going to be another bucket list item that would be checked off the list.

Since we had our own transportation and did not require a hotel transfer, we were told to meet at the Dubai Outlet Mall at the sleepy-eyed hour of 4am, which was by far the most difficult part. We did book a night in a Dubai hotel to make the arrival hour a bit easier to cope with. Once all of the passengers for the morning had been collected we were shuffled into a small caravan of SUVs and set out for the launching site a short 30-minute drive away.

Pre-dawn flight check

Located just off of E66 running from Dubai to Al Ain, two balloons were already being unrolled and filled with hot air by the time we arrived. There was breakfast laid out with options that included fruit, pastries, coffee, tea, juices and water. At the early hour, we were all happy to have a bite as the restaurant in our hotel wasn’t open when we checked out. In a matter of minutes, both balloons were inflated and casually bobbing back and forth as a small army of personnel tried to keep them from sliding the baskets about on the ground.

We were divided into 2 groups and instructed as to which balloon was ours. Once our pilot, Mohamed Youssef, was satisfied that we were nearly ready to go, he gave us the all-clear to climb over the basket wall and to find our position in preparation for take-off.

With a pull of the ignition, flames shot out of the propane burner onboard and we began to rise from the ground. Another long burn and we drifted slowly upward into the pink and blue sky of the early morning dawn.

10 miles over you

Once in the sky, Mohamed started to fill us in about all of the landscape that was slowly gliding by beneath us. As we floated East, he would bring us to a mere handful of meters off the ground and gave us a bird’s eye view of camels grazing amongst the desert dunes.

He even brought us down close enough so we could have a look at a date farm or two which was met by waves from the workers that were outside at the early hour.

Once we had a little chuckle of seemingly landing in somebody’s backyard, Mohamed unleashed the propane tanks once again and we began our climb to an altitude of 4,000 feet.

As we climbed the winds of change acted upon us and we began to drift in a Southwest direction. Over the Dubai border into Sharjah and then finally back to Abu Dhabi, our flight was filled with breathtaking views, periods of indescribable silence, and a lot of good-hearted laughter and fun along the way.

Not coming down today

Arriving just shy of Oman, Mohamed started our descent being careful we didn’t cross any border. As we skimmed the backyards of the homes in the area, people ran outside, some in their pyjamas, to give us a wave as we glided over their gardens before landing safely and softly in between two major lanes of traffic that ran to the Hatta Mountains through the small town we now found ourselves.

To our slight disappointment, the morning adventure had come to an end. Yes, there is still a romantic flair to hot air ballooning, and I will certainly go again. Who knows what I’ll see the next time?.

Check out: www.sindbadballoons.ae
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