The United Arab Emirates is well known for its skyscrapers, landmarks and beautiful beaches. However, there is more to its beauty than what meets the eye. The country was once just a stunning stretch of glowing sands and endless deserts. With time, the high-rise landmarks were built and it became one of the most developed countries in the world. But despite the modern, edgy innovations the country is known for, both tourists and residents still enjoy popping over to the untouched deserts and camping under the starlit skies. Let’s take a look at some of the things to keep in mind if you are planning to camp in the UAE, and enjoy the splendour of the great Arabian deserts in all its glory.
A Guide to Desert Camping in the UAE:
Nearly 5 decades back, the UAE was known for its golden deserts, where Bedouin tribes battled the harsh weather conditions to build a life, with their families and cattle. The nomadic tradition of the Bedouins of living in camps has now become a source of adventure for people all around the world. While it’s certainly exciting to cruise over the sand dunes and set up camp in the heart of the desert, there are few things you can do to ensure your camping trip in the UAE is as comfortable and exciting as possible.
Checklist for Camping in the UAE Deserts
For amateur campers, it’s important to plan and prepare before heading out, as once you are in the middle of the desert it’s hard to go back and look for supplies and essentials, not to mention, how much it will ruin your experience. Though this checklist can be modified according to your needs some essentials should definitely be ticked off before leaving for desert camping in the UAE.
A 4×4 for camping
It is a known fact that heavy 4×4 vehicles are the best suited when it comes to traversing the sandy terrains of the desert. While a 4×4 is not a necessity, it can make things easier if you are choosing a camping spot far away from the road. If your preferred camping spot in the UAE is close to a road, you could take any vehicle, park it in the dedicated spots, walk up to the spot and set up camp there. Most campers, especially Emirati locals, will prefer the convenience of the 4X4, and the thrill of coasting over the dunes, so if you want an authentic experience, this is the way to go!
Best Time for Camping in the Desert
As discussed earlier, the best time to camp in these dunes are in colder months when the weather is good enough to enjoy a good old barbecue around a flaming bonfire. The best months for camping in the UAE starts from November and lasts up to April. The lower temperatures during these months make it a great time to have cosy conversations around the campsite.
Best Places to Camp in the UAE
The UAE is a unique place as it is a combination of golden dunes, lush green oasis and a sparkling blue coasts. Even after all the massive developments for residential and commercial areas, 80% of the total landmass remains untouched. This means that there are still a lot of choices when it comes to camping spots in the UAE.
Here are some best places to camp in the UAE:
– Liwa, Abu Dhabi
– Fossil Rock, Sharjah
– Hatta, Dubai
If a desert is not your only choice, you could also explore these other camping spots in the UAE.
Your choice of desert for camping totally depends on who are you going with and what recreational activity you prefer. For example, if it’st mountain biking hat you would like to try, Ras Al Khor is a great choice. If rock climbing is what floats your boat, then Ras Al Khaimah and Wadi Bih are perfect spots. If you are taking along little campers, Fujairah is a great place for them to have their first desert camping experience. And if you want to stretch your muscles and go on a hike before camping, don’t forget to also look at some of the best hiking spots in the UAE.
Remember NOT to Litter
One of the reasons the UAE is a great place to live in is the fact that great care is taken to maintain the cleanliness of the surroundings. So when camping, it is advisable that you carry a litter box or a garbage bag and clean up after yourselves. If you are caught littering you will have to pay hefty fines in most of the places. For first-time visitors to Dubai who want to know more about such rules in the city, our guidelines for tourists can come in handy!
It’s really is not camping, without huddling around the warm glow of a bonfire! So to get your fire going, don’t forget to pack plenty of firewood, matches and some dry paper. Once the bonfire starts, have your own movie moment and enjoy the soft desert breeze as you warm up under the glow of the fire and share your favourite stories over some roasted marshmallows!
Choose the right tent
Camping without a tent is just like having fries without ketchup (that is debatable though). However, it’s also about choosing the right type of tent because once you’re out camping, you can’t go back easily for something else. There are different types of tents available based on the requirements of the camper and also according to the terrain. The size, material and shape of the tent are based on the camper’s preference. For a place like the UAE where the weather can be quite harsh and dusty, a single wall tent can only provide a single layer of protection from dust and sand whereas, a double-wall tent is waterproof with inner canopies of the finely meshed net and breathable nylon. The size of the tent should be according to the number of campers. Usually, a single tent is enough for two people.
Lightweight Sleeping Bags
Being cosy in a winter night especially in the desert is what most campers look forward to. That is why, a lightweight sleeping bag is essential for desert camping, especially if your plan is to stay overnight. It would keep you warm and save you from the congested confines of a tent. There are all kinds of sleeping bags; even bags which weigh as low as 300 gm. Try getting your hands on such sleeping bags as they are ideal for desert camping.
Pitch that tent in the right place
Weather in a desert is never on a moderate scale; either it’s too hot or too cold. It’s an obvious choice to pitch your tent in a nice shaded area while desert camping so that you don’t have to move your tent every now and then to find that perfect spot. For keeping the tent cool in the day, use a light- coloured tent with an opaque top or use a dark cloth to shield the top of the tent.
Compass & Map
Gone are the days when being lost in a desert called out for an Indiana Jones kind-of-experience with a compass in one hand and a map in the other, heading straight into the strong desert winds to find your way. Now you just take your phone out and hallelujah! However, nothing beats the misfortune of a phone that has run out of battery, and so as a backup plan, pack a map and a compass along with other things which can help you to navigate because you can’t take chances in a place like this.
First Aid Kit
While we all take precautions, there might be situations when the unexpected happens, and someone in the group suffers from an injury. So, it is advisable to keep a first aid kit with you at all times, especially when you are travelling. Though camping in the UAE is relatively safer than camping in any other part of the world, it’s always good to be well prepared. As the saying goes, “better to be safe than sorry”.
Water is a necessity
The biggest necessity of life is water. Be it cooking, washing or rehydrating, water is a must. Make sure to carry mineral water for drinking and some extra water for other necessities such as washing or for rehydrating the car.
Be Well Lit
Lights and lamps are an extremely essential set of things to carry while camping in the desert. Most of the camping spots in the UAE are well lit, but there are some places where there is no proper lighting. A torch can be useful especially during barbeque or hiking. Try carrying a light that works on batteries and carry a few replacement batteries.
Although deserts nights are supposed to be colder, the days can be quite hot. During the early hours of the day, there is nothing better than a cold glass of water to quench your thirst in the scorching heat of the desert. So, a small cooler box is ideal for desert camping.
Nothing sounds more satisfying than having a perfect barbeque in the desert. For a barbeque, always use barbeque grills rather than relying on wood-burners as they create a lot of mess and soot. Most of the grills are easy to carry and can be easily cleaned after usage which makes them perfect for desert camping.
Snacks are your travel buddies
Salty snacks and cold beverages are a good source for replacing salt and other minerals. In the arid atmosphere, where people sit near the bonfire, the perspiration may cause dehydration and discomfort. That is why munching them while sitting in a desert might be a good way to kill the hunger pangs and keep the minerals of the body intact. Remember to also drink water at intervals to avoid exhaustion from dehydration.
Keep the fuel tank full
Although almost all the roads and routes in the UAE have fuel stations after almost every 5 to 10 kilometres it is better to keep your tank full or even pack a few extra fuel bottles to avoid being stranded in the desert.
Desert camping is a unique experience which all adventure-lovers should have. It’s a magical escapade brings to life the exotic locales straight out of the Arabian Nights. To make your experience, as enjoyable as possible, make sure to use this first-timers guide for camping in the UAE and use our checklist to make sure you are well-prepared for a fun time in the desert!