Camping stories

We hear from camping fans in the UAE as they relive their best experiences...

Marshmallow on a stick
Marshmallow on a stick
Tyre Track
Tyre Track
Karl Marshall, director of marketing, Hyatt Regency.

‘Unlike my wife, I have always loved camping. A friend and I decided that if we went as a group, our wives would be more receptive to the idea of a trip – and we were right.

‘We decided against sand, instead opting for a wadi location. Wadi Wurrayah apparently had one of the most visited waterfalls in the UAE, wouldn’t involve too much driving and looked good in the photos we’d seen, so our minds were made up. Cars loaded with enough supplies for a three-week extravaganza, we set off for our overnight adventure, following the Al Ain Road across the Peninsula to Fujairah. At around 180km, it was a comfortable two-hour drive along major roads.

‘Although I had read that Wadi Wurrayah was a short, easy drive, and certainly not one that would push my hardy Land Cruiser to the limit, it was a pretty bouncy ride once we’d left the road – which the kids loved. I always want to have that “final frontier” feeling when I go on trips and, although it was the weekend, the gaps between us and fellow explorers was enough to satisfy that need for isolation – until, that is, we reached the waterfall. Smack bang in front of us was an 80-seater bus and its 150 occupants, who had claimed the area as their own. We headed further up the wadi in search of a more remote location to pitch our tents.

‘From here, the drive was even more enjoyable and, for me, a novice wadi basher, it was as rough as I needed. The wadi got progressively narrower, and the driving tighter. Eventually we had gone up as high as our cars could go and, to our (and our wives’) horror, there was no lush green grass on which to pitch our tents, only boulders! Thanking our lucky stars we’d brought air beds, we cleared away as many rocks as we could while the kids splashed around, damming the stream, playing with the frogs and collecting twigs for the fire. With the sun setting behind the steep cliffs surrounding us, city life could have been a million miles away. Barbecue dinner, toasting marshmallows on an open fire, the sound of laughter and the excitement of kids on an adventure in the wild – it was just fantastic.

‘In the morning I saw that we’d pitched right next to a wall that had two precarious-looking boulders perching on its edge – and I realised that I had left us open to two potential disasters: being flattened by the dastardly rocks or, worse, provoking the wrath of my wife. Speaking of the other half, her conviction that camping isn’t for her was reconfirmed on the drive home, when both cars experienced flat tyres.’

James Mullan, managing partner, Insight

‘The cows of Ras Al Khaimah never disappoint. They’ve become a feature of our regular camping trips to Musandam, ambling along the middle of the road, necessitating a quick manoeuvre through “Bovine Chicane” before we reach the border post. Once through the border the spectacular drive through the fjords can begin; 40 minutes of winding up and down roads that remind me driving can be a pleasure.

‘Approaching the port of Khasab we see powerful speedboats heading out laden with luxuries for who-knows-where. Our dhow awaits and once the humdrum business of loading it with what appears to be our entire worldly possessions is complete, we’re off. The kids excitedly assume their positions at the bow (that’s the front of the boat to you and me) and the business of finding a deserted cove begins.

‘Setting up can be testing, particularly if you forget to bring your tent poles as we thought we’d done on one of our expeditions. Having spent half an hour working out several pole-less options, the favoured one being a lean-to on a large rock, my wife asked ‘what’s that bag over there?’ Indeed.

‘“Stuff envy” is a feature of all good camping expeditions and we’ve been proud to induce this in others by introducing such necessities as sparkling ice cubes, flashing drinking glasses and glow sticks. A packed evening agenda usually consists of swim, drink, eat, sit round campfire, swap stories, toast marshmallows, observe shooting stars, savour the silence, another drink and bed.

‘A quick reviving dip, a hearty breakfast and everyone’s ready for one of the trip’s highlights – dolphin spotting. As our dhow speeds along the main fjord towards Telegraph Island the dolphins race alongside jumping and performing without the aid of a hoop, a ball or a whistle. Well, maybe a whistle as the kids imitate the dhow captain as he calls the dolphins.

‘You can find a multitude of reasons not to camp – too tired, the bugs (you’ll probably see more in your garden), that DVD box set that must be watched – but I guarantee all of these will seem feeble as you sink into bed wrapped in the warm glow of a magical trip to a place not-very-far away. Give it a go.’

Where to buy your bits

Ace Hardware: Branches in Dubai Festival City, Sheikh Zayed Road and Abu Dhabi (800 275 223). Surprisingly large camping section with a few gadgets you might not find elsewhere.

Carrefour: Al Shindagha, Deira City Centre, Al Mamzar Century Mall and Mall of the Emirates. Perfect for budget campers. The tents might be a bit on the thin side but you really don’t need an arctic six-man job for camping in Dibba. It’s also a good place for cheap accessories like fold-up chairs and cool boxes.

Go Sports: Mall of the Emirates (04 341 3251). Head torches can be picked up here, as well as some bargains if you rummage around. A good spot to find decent walking clothes at competitive prices.

Picnico: Jumeriah Beach Road, Jumeirah Three (04 394 1653). Stocks everything you need to feel like a well-heeled camper. Prices vary and it’s possible to pick up a few bargains. Picnico is also a stockist of Coleman gear for true campers and you can buy anything from sleeping bags to cooler boxes, camping stoves, electric lights and more.

Useful websites Emirates Natural History Group has forums covering different areas across the UAE. Emirates Off-Road Club offer active forums and advice on this site.

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