Words & photos by Blair Alley

It’s not everyday that a random email can result in an unexpected eye-opening and semi-life changing trip halfway around the world, but in our industry that sort of thing can happen. So when I got invited to check out the tenth anniversary of the Dubai Desert Extreme contest going down in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, it was worth a reply. Getting someone to pony up for the airfare took some time and back and forth emails in completely different timezones, but somehow on a Monday morning I had an itinerary in my inbox for a flight to Dubai leaving the next day—I almost forgot to call my mom to tell where I’d be for the next week in case she needed to get a hold of me.


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Shahriar Khodjasteh and Kader Hadri from DDE and Rage Skateshops were beyond hospitable in getting us all to Abu Dhabi after 24 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles. Checking into a four-star hotel on the beach with shisha and cold drinks waiting can wipe jetlag right off your face. The next four days was a blur of sightseeing amid blazing Middle East heat, long days at the contest site guest judging and shooting photos, and even longer nights at the bars and beaches of Abu Dhabi. Scroll on down and get filled in on the rest of it all—the article is broken up into several pages, so to be sure to click through to the next pages at the bottom.


First stop on the first day, a guided tour of the world’s largest Muslim mosque. Can’t help the skater’s eye in us all. Perfect marble ledge that will never be skated.


All marble columns inlayed with precious gemstones from around the world.


Women had to wear headscarves to enter the mosque, us dudes just had to take our shoes off.


24 karat gold Arabic writing on the inside of the domes.


Our tourguide Mohammed. Like McLovin said in Superbad, it really is one of the most popular names in the world.


Shahriar and Finnish vert vet Jussi Korhonen checking out the gemstone and marble walls inside.


Event announcer flown down from the UK, Andrew Critchlow and Jussi.


That’s Alex Mizurov taking an iPhone photo of the Muslim prayer clock. It’s got the 5 times of the day they have to pray to Mecca, the sixth time on the clock denotes sunrise.


The big boy chandelier in the main prayer room that weighs two tons. Women ain’t allowed to pray in here, ya heard.