The UAE desert makes up more than 90 per cent of the country making it the biggest outdoor adventure playground you could imagine…
Despite camping in the UAE being generally pretty safe, there are several safety aspects to consider before you venture off.
Firstly, make sure that the car you’re taking is in very good condition before you leave, and that it is capable of tackling all the roads, tracks and dunes that you plan to drive on. Check the tyre pressure, fluid levels, and ensure that you have tow ropes, a fire extinguisher, tyre pressure gauge, jack, shovel, extra fuel and a basic tool kit. Always have a fully charged mobile and let people know where you’re planning to camp, too.
Where to set up camp:
Good for: Beginner campers, or those without an SUV
Al Qudra is entry-level UAE camping. Head towards the Love Lakes, but don’t go into them. It’ll be crowded with families. Instead, drive on past the Love Lakes entrance on your left, and past where the Al Qudra cycling track winds around either side of a tree. Keep driving for another five to 10 minutes, then either park your car by the side of the road and walk in, or empty your tyres to around 19psi and drive in.
Good for: camping with children
This is a fun camping spot, very close to the Mleiha archeological site. It’s especially great for kids who can explore the marine fossils that can be found on the rock’s slopes. The presence of iron oxide gives the sand in this area a lovely rich, orange-red colour. Camp near the peak and wait for the stunning sunsets to take hold.
Good for: The ultimate camping experience
The consummate desert camping experience is found in the sea of sand dunes at Liwa, where you can go to sleep beneath a perfect starry sky and then wake up completely surrounded by one of the world’s most mesmerising dunescapes. To get to the perfect camping spots, follow the E11 and take the slip road signposted Madinat Zayed and Mezaira’a. Once you reach Mezaira’a, stock up on provisions and fuel as this is the last stop before the wilderness. From there, follow signs for Liwa Resthouse and an industrial area and turn left at the roundabout signposted Tal Mireb. With the giant Moreeb Hill on your left, camp just over one of these dunes and you’ll feel secluded but know that a solid path isn’t too far away.
There’s no right or wrong way to sandboard in the UAE. All you need is a big enough dune and the means to slide down it. If you want to give it a go, we suggest you pick up one from Above Sandboards. These cool boards are handcrafted here in the UAE. Pick up an entry level one for Dhs695, or you can choose the fun bumsled for Dhs795. Remember to bring wax for the base (also available from Above Sandboards) to reduce friction between the board and the sand.
DXBhorseriding at the Hobbies Club is a fully equipped horse riding school that offers desert hacks, beach rides, horse riding lessons and livery and leasing for both adults and children. They have more than 30 horses at their stables, many of them rescued from across the Emirates. The stables is situated on the Dubai – Al Ain Road, which means a desert hack is easily accessible for an enjoyable sunrise or sunset ride. A 90-minute desert hack starts at Dhs150. Book your spot by WhatsApping (058) 9288817.
Never done motocross but would love to learn? MX-academy is the largest motocross and enduro school in the Middle East, offering professional tuition to anyone willing to give it a go. Aside from training workshops, MX also organises desert rides once they feel you’ve got the skills to hit the dunes. Coaching packages start at Dhs1,850 for three hours and include bike hire, gear, fuel, and water.
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Grit Girls UAE
Ladies, if your appetite for adrenaline is not satisfied driving to work on Sheikh Zayed Road, swap four wheels for two and head to the desert with Grit Girls UAE. The Dubai dirtbike community for women offers try days and ad-hoc monthly meet-ups for anyone confident enough to give it a go. You’ll be taught everything from basics manoeuvres and mechanics, to learning what to look out for when buying your first bike.
Quad biking and dune buggying
Unless you’ve got Dhs60,000 to spare for a neat motorised vehicle used solely for the pleasure of revving up and down dunes, chances are you’ve not got a dune buggy or a quad bike, but ask almost every adventure junkie in the UAE and they’ll tell you that getting out to the dunes to shred some sand is top on their list for fun. Head to Big Red Motorsports to get behind the wheel of a dune buggy or quad bike and get out into nature. There are beginner tours that take you past camel farms and up to Pink Rock mountain, before taking a break at a convenience store hidden amid the dunes. A one-hour two-seater buggy tour costs Dhs1,300, while quad biking starts at Dhs650.