UAE camping guide: pitch up and plan your next trip
“Everyone needs to try camping at least once in their life. The feeling of freedom and peace that you get from just a one-night trip could even change your perspective on life,” says Luke Wilson, the founder/owner of Wild Arabia, which runs discovery and camping tours across the UAE and Oman. “It’s also an insane amount of fun and possibly the best way to make new friends or just spend some excellent quality time with existing ones. Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah both have decent spots for camping, but if you’re willing to go a bit farther afield towards Musandam, there are some amazing spots around both Khasab and Dibba.”
From rocky mountains to deserted beaches, the region’s diverse and rugged terrain provides some excellent backdrops for setting up camp – whether you’re a novice or a camping pro.
Ivana Chiles and her husband Darryl are self-confessed camping addicts. “I enjoy the total disconnection from the city, pollution-free air and the freedom I feel. I was brought up in the countryside [in the Czech Republic], and miss the silence and constant contact with nature,” says Ivana, a health coach and founder of Health Powerhouse, who has been living in the UAE for 16 years. “At night, there is complete silence unless some goats or donkeys come to sniff around for some food. We wake up very early once the birds start chirping, and we always have a hike planned.”
For Darryl, escaping the rat race is one of the biggest attractions: “We leave our mobile phones locked in our car glovebox, and share stories around the campfire instead. We enjoy a mix of camping, from the ‘luxury’ of camping out of the back of our car, with tents, tables and double mattresses, to the bare-bone bivouacs at the top of the some of the UAE’s highest peaks.” (A bivouac is an improvised, temporary campsite that provides little or no shelter – if you ever tried to make a tent out of a blanket in your garden as a child, and pretended to camp out, then this is a form of bivouacking.)
“The UAE is great, because you can generally set up camp anywhere,” says Ivana. “If you have a four-wheel-drive, then you can take a drive off-road down one of the wadi tracks leading to some of the small villages at the foot of the mountain ranges – this will usually take you past some suitable spots. The farther you explore, the less traffic you will find to disturb you during your stay.”
The Chileses are not alone in their love for camping. The Dubai-based amateur photographer Ibrahim Albeshari goes camping three or four times per year. “I go with friends or sometimes with random people,” the 36-year-old says. “It gets you closer to people and nature, and teaches you the value of Mother Nature – and it is so much fun.”
If you have children, open beaches and deserts provide the ultimate playground. One Abu Dhabi resident, Moira Prentice, and her family are camping veterans, having taken their children on trips around the UAE.
“I love the silence, the stars and good companionship around the campfire,” says Prentice. “When my kids were smaller, they had lots of fun [camping], especially sliding down the dunes. They also liked having important and semi-dangerous chores such as lighting and tending the fire.”
When it comes to choosing a spot to pitch, common sense prevails, says Wilson. “In the UAE, there are very few restrictions on camping, so you can pretty much pick any spot with suitable terrain, as long as it is not within the grounds of a hotel, in a private residential area or too close to the road.”
Updated: December 17, 2015 04:00 AM