What’s On provides the complete guide to camping in Dubai and the UAE, including Big Red, Al Qudra Lakes, Wadi Madbah, Al Gharbia and more.
With so much untouched beauty beyond the city limits, thousands of UAE camping enthusiasts are shunning the bright lights and heading to the desert. But what if you’re a first-time city slicker? We’ve created a camping rulebook, picked the brains of an outdoor expert, reviewed the pick of the places, and even written you a shopping list. It’s time to get your camp on…
WHERE TO GO
This enormous terracotta-coloured dune is less than an hour’s drive away from Dubai, but it feels as if you’re a million miles away. Be wary that this place is popular off-roading and quad biking terrain so you’ll need to consider your camping spot carefully. Our advice? As you pass Big Red, you’ll see a few farms dotted along the road, which are good pitching spots.
Distance from Dubai: 1 hour
Coordinates: 24.960083, 55.717964
Great for: Dune bashing adventures and stunning sunsets
Bad for: Novice off-roaders
Camping in Wadi Madbah is touted as being one of the loveliest routes for novice campers and off-roaders thanks to a relatively easy drive with loads of camping spots to choose from. Best of all, there are pools here to dive into.
Distance from Dubai: 2.5 hours
Coordinates: 24.093114, 56.127330
Great for: Splashing around in one of the secluded pools and waterfalls
Bad for: Pitching tents. Secure corners of the tent with rocks
Die hard camping enthusiasts can still get their fill in the hotter months by seeking cooler climes up in the mountains. Our favourite is Jebel Yibir – it’s the highest peak in the UAE (reaching 1,350m) with some stand out camping spots around the 400m mark.
Distance from Dubai: 1.5 hours
Coordinates: 25.647246, 56.129738
Great for: Hiking – there are many routes to choose from
Bad for: Fidgety sleepers. Rocks make for a hard night’s kip
Watersports enthusiasts will know all about Al Gharbia from the annual kite surfing competition that takes place here. The long stretch of coast in Mirfa is a kite surfers dream, and many pitch up on the beach to take advantage of the morning winds.
Distance from Dubai: 3 hours
Coordinate: 24.121591, 53.455835
Great for: Non-4WD owners
Bad for: Privacy. Beaches can get pretty crowded
AL QUDRA LAKES
Split by the Al Qudra bike track, this gorgeous spread of manmade lakes, with their birds and other wildlife, desert and cultivated woodland is one of the coolest new places to explore in the UAE. Firewood is available from the nearby Trek Store (it also rents bikes for people who want to ride the track), while canoeing is also allowed on some of the lakes.
Distance from Dubai: 25 minutes
Coordinate: 24.837586, 55.376922
Great for: A daycation
Bad for: Adventure seekers. This is just a pleasant day/night out; nothing too serious.
Rubbish bags, Toilet rolls, Warm clothes for the evening, Sun protection, First aid kit (including personal medication), Insect repellent, Matches or lighters, Newspaper or firestarters, Camping stove, firewood or barbecue, Food and drink, Water, Cool box, Maps or a GPS system, Torches and spare batteries, Air bed, Lightweight sleeping bag, Tent.
RULES OF CAMPING
Passionate adventurer and founder of Adventure HQ, Sam Whittam, explains the fundamentals for camping safely in the UAE.
Be prepared Ensure your car is serviced and in good condition. Check tyre pressure and fluid levels. Charge your mobile and let people know where you are going.
Be considerate Try to minimise light and noise pollution
Dune camping Don’t pitch your tents directly at the base of dunes where oncoming off-roaders could plough over your camp.
Fire safety Make sure campfires are properly maintained (and buried when you leave).
Shoes Keep your shoes on at all times, or you might end up stepping on a scorpion.
Respect private property Don’t camp on private beaches or farms without consent.
Water Take enough water for drinking, washing your hands and washing your dishes.
Respect the environment Take all rubbish home and leave your camping spot as you found it.
Worth knowing There are no official off-road rescue services in the UAE – you have to rely on the police of whichever Emirate you are in to come and rescue you. Police Hotline: 999
It’s a romantic notion, but sleeping out under the stars isn’t particularly practical – or even safe. Adventure HQ recommends three of the best tents for you and your friends.
Mozzie Dome II Tent DHS 295 SLEEPS 2. This one sheet tent is perfect for hot and dry conditions, and cheap.
Eco Swift Pitch 3 DHS 495 SLEEPS 3. The Uvtex fabric keeps this three-person tent cool in hot conditions.
Oztrail Blitz 240 Dhs 2,995 SLEEPS 4. Like your own private majalis – spacious, airy and strong.
Adventure HQ, Times Square Mall, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. Tel: 800 238368873. Taxi: Times Square. adventurehq.ae