In 2014, I was lucky enough to take two big overseas trips from Australia—first to the United Arab Emirates and later also to Canada. K’ching! But when you’re a writer every trip, everywhere, is a research opportunity (and deductible) which makes the expense more palatable.
My UAE stop-over was a functional one, at first, mid-route to Wales. Of all the states on the Arabian peninsula, the collected Emirates are the least conservative (which is not to say they’re not still quite conservative by our standards) and perhaps the most accessible to and tolerant of Westerners. I flew into Dubai but I just had no interest in the glass and chrome spectacle of the world’s most consumptive city; I was more keen to hit some of the natural spots. In the UAE, nature pretty much comes in three flavours – marine, mountain and desert.
I picked desert.
What a noob!
Some simplistic context…. Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen make up the bulk of the Arabian peninsula (sand making up the bulk of them), and, years ago, a number of smaller Emirates grouped together politically to form the United Arab Emirates along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. The whole peninsula was once the floor of a vast ocean, and all that golden desert sand is actually ancient sea sand that has been shifting about on the surface ever since. As our present mini ice-age locked up all the water, the land there lost much of its original green oasis and wildlife and—over millennia—it has baked and blown to its present dry state.
The temperature gauge on the expensive limo that whisked me out of the city and out into the desert toward Oman read 58 Celsius. Celsius! Off the asphalt it was a little cooler (50C) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the 6-star resort I stayed at was virtually a ghost town. On the up side, the scorching heat meant I had the resort’s amazing facilities— and the entire desert— practically to myself. But I understood a little better how I had managed to get such an accessible price on such an exclusive resort.
For the record, desert—most particularly the sort comprising 99% of the UAE—is completely awesome. It is nothing like you imagine. I expected to find it interesting from a wildlife and conservation standpoint, but I had no idea it would seep into my heart like its sands seeped into my luggage. Its colour, the geometry, the light… *sigh*
I sat on the edge of a massive, fenced wildlife reserve in my private Bedouin tent with my private plunge pool, where the wildlife came virtually to my door feeling like it was all for me, and I had the most magical, restorative and inspiring few days of my life.
I immediately knew that I’d be setting a book there. If not more than one. Out of respect for the culture and the beautiful people I met, I created my own fictional Emirate and history, but the rest of the wildlife experiences I included in my December release ‘Bodyguard…to Bridegroom’ were real. I knew it was the sort of place where a woman could go to find herself and maybe find love while she was out there. Because I both found myself and found a new love (for the desert!) while I was there.
I blogged extensively about my experiences at the luxury resort here if you would like to learn more about it, the deserts and wildlife of the UAE (scroll down to the deserty stuff).
Nikki Logan lives amongst a string of wetlands in Western Australia with her long-suffering partner and a menagerie of furred, feathered and scaly mates. Her romance with nature goes way back, and she considers her life charmed, given that she works with wildlife by day and writes fiction by night–the perfect way to combine her two loves.
Nikki believes that the passion and risk of falling in love are perfectly mirrored in the danger and beauty of wild places. Every romance she writes contains an element of nature, and if readers catch a waft of rich earth or the spray of wild ocean between the pages she knows her job is done.