Best Camping Sites in Dubai
When it comes to spending the weekend in the UAE, most people consider resorts or hotels, with a common alternative being Airbnb rooms and similar options. However, one option that is rising in popularity is camping, with many camping spots scattered across the UAE, in many of its natural hotspots. When it comes to packing for a camping trip, make sure you keep stock of essential items and take safety precautions, to ensure a fun, yet safe, camping trip out in the desert. There are two types of camping trips – overnight stays and long-term. In the UAE, long-term camping is regulated and requires a special permit, but overnight camping trips are welcome, with many camping bases scattered around the country to enjoy.
The Public Health and Safety Department has released a number of guidelines concerning outdoor camping, in order to keep campers safe at all times. One of the most important guidelines is about setting up your tent – make sure your tent is set up away from low-lying areas and from cooking stations and fuel storage tanks, and ensure that the tent is set up on flat land, free from rocks, potholes, and mud or marsh. The tent itself must be made from non-flammable material and must have ventilation holes (or mesh) to allow air to pass through, and must be well set-up to ensure the tent doesn’t fall or fly away, as the desert can get quite windy once the sun sets.
When driving to and from the campsite, make sure your car has four-wheel drive, and is large enough to carry the camping equipment, extra tools, and first-aid kits. Avoid driving into valley when it is raining, and make sure you carry a spare tyre as well – few of these camping grounds are out into the desert, so it is important to take every precaution to stay safe.
When going camping, it is easy to simply pack a tent and a sleeping bag and call it a day, as it is only one night spent outside. However, camping grounds are far into the desert, making it a long drive to reach the site, and it is recommended that you reach the camping ground before the sun sets, so you have enough light to set up your tent. When camping, make sure you carry your tent, sleeping bags, firewood, a grill, a barbecue set and aluminium foil, charcoal and matches (for a fire), a first-aid kit, rubbish bags, tissues, a map, insect repellent, lots of water (for drinking and washing things), and a torch, in case your electronics run out of charge.
The nation’s capital is also popular for its camping grounds, with resorts tucked away in secluded corners of the desert, surrounded by sand dunes and palm trees. The most popular spot is the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) Desert, which is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, spread across parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen. Approximately 3 hours from the Abu Dhabi Corniche, this desert is one of the best places to camp for the night, thanks to its seclusion from the city, the Liwa Oasis, and the vast stretch of sand as far as the eye can see – making it perfect for a quiet, contemplative night under the stars.
Al Ain, a popular oasis and the UAE’s own ‘Garden City’, too, has its own share of camping spots, the most popular one at the base of Al Ain’s tallest mountain, Jebel Hafeet. The Jebel Hafeet Desert Park is a nine-kilometer park that surrounds the base of Jebel Hafeet, and contains camping grounds that are open for those looking to spend a night by the mountain. For those who are looking to experience Bedouin culture without getting down and gritty in the dirt, the park also offers Bedouin-style tents, complete with an Emirati breakfast, while more up-scale guests can stay in air-conditioned dome tents that come with a stunning view of the peak.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve offers a number of fun camping options for guests who want to enjoy a night on the sand without the added hassles of bringing camping gear. Sonara Camp, for example, is a unique camp-cum-restaurant concept that’s in the middle of the desert, offering guests a mix of a full dining experience and an overnight stay, filled with entertainment and activities out on the dunes. Another camp in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is the Nara Desert camp, the ultimate experience for tourists looking to have a luxurious stay out in the desert – consisting of ten tents, the camp is cosy, making it a fun family getaway, and the overnight stay includes hikes across the vast desert, meditation sessions in a natural setting, and a light breakfast in the morning.
Hatta, the inland exclave within Dubai (the emirate) is another fun space for campers to spend the night, without having to spend hours on the road – the drive from Dubai to Hatta takes over an hour, but the drive is filled with stunning scenery of the vast desert. Hatta is also the perfect spot for adventure enthusiasts and those looking for a unique camping adventure, and the Ground offers easy access to the campsite so guests don’t have to walk too far from their parked car to set up for the night. The vicinity also offers pre-installed barbecue areas, making it that much easier to have a delicious, warm meal at night without having to get into your car and visit one of the food trucks at the Hatta Wadi Hub. The camping ground is also convenient for its washroom and shower facilities that are onsite, providing enough comfort while still granting its guests privacy and independence to ensure an authentic camping experience.
Nature-lovers will particularly enjoy a stay at the Kingfisher Retreat in Khor Kalba, on Sharjah’s east coast. The site is very eco-friendly and is close to the beach, allowing guests to enjoy the sparkling water and soft sand – the resort offers 20 tents that have been designed to reflect the country’s rich heritage, and the retreat itself is near mangroves that are home to a turtle breeding area and a variety of birds, making it an ideal stay for ornithologists and bird-watchers. The resort is also a fun space for hikers and trekkers, as the mountainous landscape provides the perfect terrain for guided and unguided walking and hiking trails, along with a base for paragliding.
Mleiha, a UNESCO-nominated site, houses many of the UAE’s archaeological discoveries and finds, making it a fun weekend trip for history enthusiasts who are looking to explore the nation’s ancient history. The Mleiha Archaeological Centre offers camping activities as well, beginning with a dune-bashing session to the fossil rock hill, where guests and visitors can then take a guided tour in and around the area, with guides pointing out the many fossils and rock formations. Come nightfall, the tour shifts towards a camp set up in the desert, complete with dinner and a star-gazing session with a telescope on a clear night. The tents are spacious and comfortable, and campers are encouraged to visit Mleiha for its camping experience along with the historic discoveries made in the region.
Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is known for the stunning Hajar Mountain range, and for having the tallest peak in the UAE, Jebel Jais. A slightly lesser-known fact is the emirate’s many camping sites and resorts that offer tents and beach-side campgrounds. For guests looking to enjoy a fun night underneath the stars without worrying about the hassles of camping, Bin Majid Beach Hotel offers a beachside camping experience that promises the joys of camping without any added stress, combined with close proximity to Sharjah’s stunning beach. On the other hand, guests who are looking for a more traditional experience can book a stay at the Bedouin Oasis Camp, located about two kilometres from Bassata Village. The camp offers small tents, with a communal dining and entertainment area, and due to its location in the desert, activities like sand-boarding, dune-bashing, and camel rides are abundant. Guests can end the night with a traditional barbecue dinner and Arabic tea and coffee near one of the many firepits around the camp.
The Ras Al Khaimah desert, too, is a popular spot for serious campers who are looking for an authentic camping experience out in the desert. Guests can drive up to the small oasis farms in the desert and pitch a tent out in the open space. Be careful of other guests and off-road vehicles coming over the sand dunes. The desert can be quite harsh, so choose a good time to go camping – it is better to go during the cooler autumn months, when the sun isn’t as harsh. When the sun sets, it can get quite chilly, so make sure you pack layers of warm clothing to keep you comfortable throughout the night.
The Hajar Mountains and Jebel Jais
The Hajar Mountain range, too, offers a multitude of camping opportunities for serious campers, while still being a fun day-trip for tourists who want to soak in the rugged mountainous landscape. Many guides recommend that guests start their trip at Al Hala, a village on the foothills of the mountain, near Wadi Taybah. The road then leads through Masafi, a village that’s famous for its spring water, along with a Friday market that’s open every day. Campers are allowed to camp en-route to the mountains, or go for a slightly elevated terrain to enjoy the view. The highest peak, Jebel Jais,
Umm Al Quwwain
The perk to camping out in Umm Al Quwwain is the reduced crowds – the emirate is farther off from the capital – and the stunning beaches. Camping on the beachside is permitted in Umm Al Quwwain so pack some camping gear along with your sunscreen if you wish to spend a night underneath the waves. The beaches are a perfect getaway for a daytime trip if you’re looking to relax in peace and quiet under the sun, or for a night-time barbecue and a peaceful evening underneath the stars. Guests are invited to go along the peninsula at Al Raas to spot wild birds, including flamingos, and there are kayaks on rent to allow guests to explore the nearby mangroves.
The beaches of Fujairah, too, offer a wide variety of excursions and activities for guests and residents alike – including overnight stays in camping tents. There are a number of luxury hotels and resorts that line Fujairah’s glittering beach, so it is recommended to take a weekday camping trip if you’re looking for a quiet night. Thanks to the hotels nearby, it makes it easy to grab a spot of breakfast or get a day pass for the hotel to use the bathroom and shower. The best space to camp in Fujairah is Fujairah beach, as the flat terrain and brisk air makes it comfortable to spend the night, and get you used to camping out in the open. Fujairah Beach is also the perfect space for beginners to spend the night, if you’re wary of climbing up into the mountains for a camping trip.
The small emirate is the best spot to go for a camping trip for guests who are looking to enjoy a quiet night with friends and family, away from crowds and curious eyes. The emirate doesn’t offer much in terms of recreational activities, making its desert empty and quiet; the perfect recluse. Many locals and residents alike choose to spend weekends in Ajman due to its quiet nature, with people bringing camping gear, firewood, barbecue grills, and kettles to set up for a night of catching up with friends.
For those who are looking forward to enjoying Ajman without the hassle of bringing camping gear, Caravana is a campsite that’s home to spacious caravans that guests can rent and stay in overnight – the campsite also offers activities like kayaking and horse-riding, along with access to a private beach, making it a fun weekend stay for friends and family.
The UAE is packed with multiple camping and ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping) opportunities alike, perfectly suited for guests looking to get away from the city and for more serious campers who enjoy the sense of independence in a natural setting. When it comes to spending a night underneath a starry night sky, the deserts and beaches of the UAE offer fun and luxury all rolled in one.
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