It’s the perfect weather for it.
The endless sand dunes of the Al Dhafra region surrender a sense of peace and tranquillity like nowhere else in the Emirates and is the perfect location for an overnight desert camping trip.
WHERE TO PITCH YOUR TENT
Al Fathiya, Hameem Road – Coordinates 23.642554, 54.441800
The closest of our recommendations to Abu Dhabi City, follow this gatch track for about 14kms, then go straight at the crossroads. From there the desert opens out and you’ll find many possibilities for good camp spots; this area is not a million miles from the famous milky way spot, which is accessed from the opposite direction via Razeen, but this location is much quieter with equally dark skies.
Arada – Coordinates 23.134208, 53.291070
A barbed wire gate leads to a usually well maintained gatch, lined with huge dunes that winds its way to a remote date plantation, over 20kms inside the desert. Here, you’ll find multiple great places to camp that are very quiet with dark skies.
Ghayathi – Coordinates 23.394065, 53.101375
Once through the automatic gate, the sandtrack will lead you deep into the desert, past beautiful dunes and herds of camels. Eventually leading to a remote plantation some 45kms from the road. However, if you travel just 10kms, you should have the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.
WHAT TO DO
Set up camp
Pitch your tent, set your campfire, relax. Download a sky watching app, such as “heavens-above” and try to spot satellites as they pass over – if you are really lucky, you might see the international space station.
Grab your camera
The aforementioned remote spots are perfect for photography, whether landscape, flora and the fauna, night skies or even just your family having fun.
Slip and slide
If you have kids or even if you’re a kid at heart, buy a sledge and slide down a few slipfaces. Late in the day when the sands’ still hot, you might even trigger the “singing sands of Liwa”, as previously experienced by the British explorer, Wilfred Thesiger in this book, Arabian Sands.
If you find yourself in the area between 16 and 31 December, call into the Liwa Festival at Moreb Dune. There are daily activities and competitions which include falconry, camel racing, drag racing and much more.
THE CALL OF THE WILD
You may be on the edge of the Empty Quarter, but you’ll see evidence of a surprising amount of wildlife. Gazelle, foxes, Cheeseman’s gerbils, jerboas, various lizards and beetles will leave their tracks on the sand, none of which are dangerous to humans.
At night, you may find other insects and scorpions which must be avoided; it’s always a good idea to wear closed in shoes at night and be careful where you walk. Desert wildlife is naturally shy and will not chase humans; however, if you accidentally stand on a scorpion, it will retaliate, which could lead to a quick visit to a hospital for you. Another creature you may encounter is the camel spider. It is neither venomous nor poisonous and looks far scarier than it
- You’ll need a 4×4 to access the quietest places
- Take a minimum of three cars on any camping expedition that involves any sort of desert driving
- Deflate your tyres (to 15-20psi); take a good tyre gauge and a compressor
- Choose a flat spot to pitch your tent, away from bushes and vegetation, and never downwind from a camel or goat farm!
- Do not camp in cultivated areas, wildlife reserves, or near oil installations
- Always use a fire pit or blanket; take your campfire ashes, garbage home with you
Marina Bruce is a desert guide, writer and adventurer, and her company, Xpedition Arabia, offers guided self-drive adventures throughout the Gulf. Her UAE weekend trips visit the mentioned areas and combine offroad driving, camping and campfire/BBQ. Follow her on her IG @xpedtion_arabia_by_desertdiva
Image source Pixabay