The Western Region
I work in the Western Region of AD or Al Gharbia, a not too visited region of the country that actually makes up most of its deserts. Al Gharbia has some cool family places to visit for classic desert, and one or two interesting events like the Al Dhafra Camel Festival.
So for desert head out on the E-11 signed towards Al Ghweifat until you get to the ADNOC garage near Tarif (after about an hour’s driving), then head inland towards Liwa, drive through Madinat Zayed and keep going, still following signs for Liwa. before you get there come off at the sign for the Camel Race track and this is the site for the aforementioned Camel Festival.
Also you will find the Tilal Liwa Hotel nearby, which is worth checking out for weekend deals, it has some beautiful desert framing their infinity pool.
Have some food here, then head back towards Liwa, looking for signs for Tal Mirab (Moreeb Dune). This is about another hour’s drive, but when you get to the desert around Tal Mirab it will have been worth it, it is for my money the most stunning bit of desert in the UAE. I think you can do dune bashing an so forth at the dunes and there is a campsite, but we have only ever been for the day, so I don’t know how that works.
The Camel Festival has more camels than I thought existed. You can hang out with them and get a little ride, go shopping in the traditional souk and get some Arab eats. Our best experience at the festival (we have been a couple of times), was when we rocked up only to find the festival site wasn’t open. So we tooled around the campsite for a bit admiring the tethered camels before being invited into one of the Bedouin tents by some local lads. Our guests from the UK though it was very Lawrence of Arabia and I scored loads of authentic experience points :).
You can also check out the area around Qasr Al Sarab luxury resort in the middle of the desert, but only 90-minutes from AD. Let me just establish before we move on that we DIDN’T stay in the hotel, but with friends in the staff accommodation next door :). So this part of the post want focus on the hotel at all which we didn’t even bother to visit, as impressive as it looks, it still pales into comparison next to the sea of dunes nest to it. It also helps that these are the self-same dunes where they shot the Force Awakens .
So instead we hung out with friends and fly a kite, climbed the dunes and marveled at the dunes. A lot of people go for the belly dancing, dune bashing experience in the desert, but for me lying back in the quiet and looking at the stars beats all that into a cocked hat.
Also the boys are now 7 and 9 and they ‘get’ the desert much more, the space it offers seems to infect them as well and iPads and the like are quickly forgotten.
So even if you don’t have a five-star budget, get out to the hotel if only for a cup of tea, or just park up in the afternoon and escape into the dunes for a couple of hours.
Since this entry I have been back to the hotel for the day with Sarah and Sally from the UK and I wanted to share our extra finds. First off we had lunch at he hotel which was pricey and OK, but the MASSIVE dune at the back of the hotel was well worth the climb. Second we plumped for archery courtesy of my mate 🙂 again not sure how they charge for this normally but it was great fun.
Me and the boys have been back and for some more fun with our mates and this time we went on the Hotel camel ride…the pics say it all it was great, the guides were knowledgeable, the desert was beautiful and Tommy and Danny had a great time running up the dunes, although they did complain that the camels gave them sore arses, foul mouthed little bleeders.