Ever wonder what it was like for Bedouin tribes to travel in camel caravans through the hot deserts of Dubai? If you live in Dubai or are visiting, plan a trip to the Al Marmoom desert and find out all about the desert delights of the city.
From taking part in an authentic Al Marmoom Bedouin experience to camel racing and everything that the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve has to offer, here is everything you can do at Dubai’s famous desert retreat.
Dubai’s Largest Unfenced Nature Reserve
Spanning 10% of Dubai’s total area, the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve is the largest reserve in the UAE. Open to the public and abundant with wildlife, this unfenced reserve is home to a number of endangered species of animals and has the largest number of Arabian Oryx in the country. Additionally, the Al Marmoom conservation area also encompasses around 10km of lakes including the ones along Al Qudra.
What does Al Marmoom have to offer adventurers like yourself? Read on to find out about the activities in Al Marmoom.
Bike Trekking across the Dunes
There are a lot of activities at Al Qudra Lake for adrenaline junkies to try but cycling is one of the most popular. Start the day bright and early by pedalling along the Al Qudra cycling track. Popular with both leisure riders and professional cyclists the 86km track, a 50km long main loop from Seih Al Salam, takes you through the desert terrain. If you are feeling adventurous, you can always continue pedalling towards the 20km extension, known as The Stick. It’s a great way to catch breathtakingly beautiful views of the sunrise and sunsets between the dunes. And if you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a family of oryx or other protected local animal species.
All that pedalling is bound to make you tired. Thankfully, there are several resting stations along its route available for some much-needed shade. You will also find restrooms where the Bab Al Shams Road connects with Al Qudra.
Don’t have a personal bike? Don’t worry, you can always rent some wheels from the Trek Bicycle Store. Located right along the track, this service charges patrons according to the type of bikes rented and the number of people in a group. Do try their Cake Ride —a challenge which rewards cyclists who conquer the entire 50km loop in an evening with cake.
- Best time to visit: 08:00 am to 09:00 am (Sunrise) – 05:00 pm to 06:00 pm
While most of the track is for cyclists, cars are also given road access. To keep things safe, we recommend planning any cycling expeditions before dark since the path is minimally lit during this time. Depending on whether you trek the whole path or part of it, the entire trip can take you between one and a half to three hours.
Head to the Al Marmoom Camel Race Track
A trip to Al Marmoom is incomplete without a stopover at the Dubai Camel Race Track. Based at the Dubai Camel Race Club, the track is located right next to Al Marmoom Heritage Village. Be a part of the heart-thumping action from the grandstand as 60 camels dressed in their owners’ livery burst through the gate and make their way down the track at 40km/ hour. Robot jockeys in tow, these “ships of the desert” barrel towards the finish line while their owners follow them in 4-wheel drives yelling words of encouragement.
Incredibly intense and fast-paced, the experience is unlike any other. For a more enjoyable experience, we recommend bringing a pair of binoculars. Drop-in a little early too for an opportunity to pet the camels or take a picture with them before they head towards the track.
- Time of races: 07:00 am to 09:00 am
- Contact: 04-832-6526
To make the most of Al Marmoom camel racing, visit Al Marmoom Heritage Village during the festival season. A 12-day affair held during the spring, the Al Marmoom Heritage Festival is a great place to experience the thrill of the race. There are also food, handicrafts and traditional activities for kids and adults to enjoy.
Picnic by the Lake
A picnic at the Al Qudra lakes must definitely be on your do-to list at Al Marmoom, Dubai. The area is pretty popular for visitors and residents who want to get away from the big city. To make the most of the experience, we recommend having a picnic breakfast there early in the morning before sunrise or late in the afternoon. This way, you escape the desert heat and experience how gloriously the desert lights up at sunrise or sunset.
Al Marmoom Wildlife
You may encounter some local wildlife while cycling or picnicking in the Al Marmoom desert. The area is home to around 170 species of birds. If you are lucky, you may spot some that are endangered like the Steppe Eagle.
One of the many species to look out for is the Arabian Oryx —an endangered species that has been successfully repopulated by the UAE government thanks to breeding programs and other conservation efforts. Keep a sharp lookout for the animal in conservation areas when you are off-roading as these are the best places to spot them.
To keep things safe, we recommend hiring a qualified guide before you head out. Keep your distance from any animals you come across too. The local wildlife must be respected and remain undisturbed in its natural environment.
For a closer inspection of local bird species, visit The Nest. Located at the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, this bird observation tower is designed in the shape of an actual bird’s nest. The wood and steel structure allows up to 20 people the chance to view the variety of birds that reside in the sanctuary.
Live like the Bedouins
Want the ultimate Al Marmoom Bedouin experience? A typical experience includes camel caravan rides in the desert while guides relate how nomadic Bedouin tribes survived in the desert. Other activities include pitstops at a traditional majlis, falconry and a visit to a Bedouin village next to an oasis at the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve.
Different services offer packages depending on the number and type of desert activities you want to try. For example, Platinum Heritage offers an “Al Marmoon Desert Experience” complete with authentic Bedouin culinary experiences and the aforementioned activities for AED 495 for adults.
There is nothing like gazing at the zillions of stars visible in a desert night sky. Holding deep cultural and historical significance in the UAE, stargazing must be a definite part of your adventure at Al Marmoom. A guide can tell you how you can tell time and find your way around the desert by looking at star patterns. To take your stargazing adventure up a notch, set up an overnight camp.
You can also take part in the Astrotourism tours held at the Dubai Astronomy Group to make the most of your stargazing experience. The group holds regular tours and is a great way to combine your love of astronomy with desert exploration.
That wraps up our list of things to do at Al Marmoom. For more desert adventures, check out our review of overnight desert safaris in Dubai. Want to make the most of your camping trips? Take a look at our guide for desert camping in the UAE. Also, while the UAE is hardly a cheap place to live in, there are some areas in which entertainment is free. Check out our guide for free activities in Dubai to satisfy your curiosity.