Camping in the UAE: Your ultimate guide



  • What you need to know about camping
  • How to avoid a fire in camps
  • What kind of camping equipment do you need?
  • Where can you camp in the UAE?
  • What are the Do’s and Don’ts?

That smell of a campfire, the view of the stars and the taste of barbecue are a few reasons that many UAE residents are getting out of the city on the weekends to go camping. But, there’s a lot you need to know before planning a trip in nature.

Before going on a camping trip for a weekend getaway with family and friends, it is important to make a check list of all the essentials you may need, as well as ensuring that all the camping equipment meets safety standards. But the to-do-list does not stop there and once you hit base, it is vital to take all the necessary safety precautions to ensure you have a safe camping trip.

What you need to know

There are two types of camping trips in the UAE — long term and overnight. According to officials from Dubai Municipality, long term camping is regulated and requires a permit to do so, while outdoor enthusiasts may camp at any place that takes their fancy.

Weekend camping

According to the Public Health and Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, a number of guidelines concerning camping outdoors are in place to ensure that campers are safe outdoors.

Guidelines to ensure a safe camping experience give advice on how tents should be set up in safe areas, and how tents and generators are used in a safe manner, and states how to use fires and grills safely.

Sites for setting up the tents:

The site should not be in low areas such as stream valleys, or next to a cliff, and the tent site should also not be set up at the base of a cliff.

Tents should be set up far away from cooking stations or where wood is burned, and be a safe distance from fuel depots, fuel storage tanks, generators and electricity poles.

The guidelines also state that tents should be in high areas far enough from water tide levels.

Campers are also advised to avoid mud floors which may be infested with scorpions, ants and other insects. Use flat lands that are free of stones and potholes to avoid creating a moist environment in the tent. The guidelines further stress avoiding shallow or semi-marsh areas in which water may appear as a result of a rise in sea-level.

Safety and health guidance related to tent specifications:

Tents should be made from non-flammable and non-absorbent materials that are equipped with the essential ventilation holes to allow proper ventilation.

Tents must be set up tightly so as not to fall or fly away in the event of strong winds, and ropes must be kept in a length that is safe and will not cause people to trip and fall.

Safety and health requirements for generators:

The person responsible for operating the electric generator should have it periodically maintained and use the appropriate adapters, and place the generator properly to avoid leakage of exhaust gases into the tent as a result of the direction of the wind.

If children are present, a safe barrier should be set up to prevent their exposure to the generator and the fuel.

Health and safety instructions relating to fire, grilling, and heating operations:

Firewood must be stored away from the tent by a minimum of 15 feet in normal situations.

The burner stove must be in a safe location compared to the tent; so that the direction of the wind is towards the fireplace and not the tent, and the burner should be surrounded by a barrier, such as sand or stone.

The municipal guidelines also state that burning coal should not be left unattended at night as it can cause a fire hazard.

How to avoid a fire in camps

•All light sources and lanterns should be kept at least 50 centimetres away from the tent.

•Do not use heated equipment, such as barbeques and coal, inside the tent.

•Ensure a fire extinguisher is available nearby or inside the tent.

•Do not use open flames, such as candles or lighters, inside the tent.

•Firewood must be stored away from the tent by a minimum of 15 feet at any given time.

Other safety instructions:

Use a suitable four-wheel-drive car for easy movement and carry all the required maintenance tools to aid you in the event of any damage to the tyres. Above all, learn how to change a tyre before heading out on a camping trip.

Do not drive into valleys when it is raining and always pay attention to the road.

Avoid throwing waste in unhealthy and unsafe ways as it attracts insects and creates an unhealthy environment.

Avoid pouring water in small burrows, which can push scorpions out and other harmful insects, and take precaution when lifting rocks as you do not know what kind of harmful animals or insects may be hidden nearby.

Long-term camping:

Long-term camping sites in Dubai are designated to the areas of Wadi Al Amerdi, Wadi Al Shabak, Al Warqa, and Al Khawaneej 2. According to the building inspection department at the municipality, permits are required to set up long-term camping sites, which are valid until April 2013.

Only Emiratis can apply for the permits, and camp owners are required to pay a Dh2,000 deposit and a fee of 22 fils a week for each square metre of campsite. The permits are eligible to Dubai citizens, who are required to present their car registration, passport and Emirates ID car to be registered.

The maximum size of a winter camp is limited to a maximum of 300 square metres, and once the camp is registered, a wooden plaque in A3 size is placed outside it. “There are 587 recreational camps in the designated camping sites and we expect it to increase to 600 this month,” said Jaber Al Ali, head of building inspection department at Dubai Municipality.

“To protect campers, the Roads and Transport Authority, Civil Defence, police and the Emergency and Rescue Department have set up camps and rolled out patrols to inspect the camping areas 24 hours a day,” he added.

Be considerate towards others in the region and be wary of venturing out into a private property. Make sure you are not camping on someone else’s private beach or farm and seek prior consent

Charge your mobile and carry power banks at all times, so you are never disconnected. 999 is the number to call for all kinds of emergencies in the UAE, even for off-road rescue services in any emirate.

Don’t pitch your tents at the base of a dune or anywhere near it. This puts you at risk of getting run over by onrushing off-roaders who may not be aware of what’s going on behind the dune they are climbing.

Ensure car is serviced and in good condition. Also check tyre pressure and fluid levels.

Camping equipment

Blow-up mattress and pillows

Firewood, grills and stove top kettle

Barbecue set and tin foil

Maps and GPS (when off-roading)

Water- for drinking and washing

Where can you camp in the UAE?

Lahbab sands

Getting there: Take Al Awir Road/E44 and then Dubai-Hatta Road/Ras Al Khor Road to your destination in Lahbab.

What to expect: Known for its spectacular red sands, Lahbab is a popular night-time haunt for new campers. Many start off close to the familiar Fossil Rock that’s also a great place for star gazing. A barbecue in this weather is the best thing to do while attempting the ‘Big Red’, a 300-foot high sand dune, is a dune basher’s delight. You could also head over to the sleepy village of Madam just before the Hatta border crossing for more camping spots where you may have some wandering camels from local farms for company.

Distance: 1hr 40mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 40mins from Safa Park

Ras Al Khaimah desert

Getting there: Head towards Ras Al Khaimah on Mohammad Bin Zayed Road.

What to expect: You could either camp near the farms or explore the stunning dunes of Ras Al Khaimah. A great incentive of camping overnight is the region’s flora and fauna. Besides banyan, palm and ghaf trees lining up the desert, you won’t struggle to spot native animals like the Arabian oryx. Many wild birds, some migrating from cooler regions this time of the year, are a regular feature. However do take note that it’s seriously off-road and in the middle of nowhere and ample food and drink along with other essentials is a must for overnighters.

Distance: 2hrs 40mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 1hr 10mins from Safa Park

The Rubh Al Khali

Getting there: Follow Dubai – Ghweifat International Highway, Abu Dhabi -Tarif Road/E11 and E45 to Hameem Road

What to expect: Part of the larger Arabian Desert, the Rubh Al Khali or Empty Quarter is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, covering some 650,000 square kilometres across parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen. The stunning Liwa Oasis is at the heart of it all and many say is the site that provides the ultimate desert camping experience. For a first-timer venturing into the desert it is advisable to have at least a couple of cars and an experienced guide for company.

Distance: 2hr 50mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 3hrs 40mins from Safa Park

Hajar Mountains

Getting there: Hit Mohammad Bin Zayed Road heading north and then get on to Al Dhaid Road (E88) in the direction of Masafi.

What to expect: Start off at Al Hala, a village in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains where there’s Wadi Taybah, not far from the village of Al Taybah. Drive through to Masafi, UAE’s version of Évian-les-Bains, famous for its spring water. There’s also a Friday market that actually opens every day. You could camp anywhere en route to the mountains. The picturesque Wadi Wurayah is about an hour’s drive from Masafi, not far from the foothills of the Hajar Mountains. Roughly 20km off the Khor Fakkan beach, the rocky terrain of the region will take you down winding ravines, leading you to serene waterfalls.

Distance: 3hrs 30mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 2hrs 30mins from Safa Park

Jabal Al Jais

Getting there: Take Shaikh Mohammad Bin Salem Road/E11 in Al Riffa and then Khuzam Road

What to expect: Stunningly beautiful mountainscape with naturally scultped rocks will take your breath away on your way up to Jebal Al Jais, the UAE’s tallest mountain. With temperatures recorded as low as -3 degrees Celsius (in January 2009 when the enitre mountain cluster was covered in snow), it is also amongst the coolest places in the country, often making ovenight stays here a bone-chilling affair.

Distance: 3hrs 30mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 2hrs 20mins from Safa Park

Umm Al Quwain beach

Getting there: Take Mohammad Bin Zayed Road north towards Ajman, and take Dreamland Waterpark exit.

What to expect: The beaches are a perfect gateway even for a daytime trip or a night-time barbecue. For more fun, you could also visit the old fishing villages along the peninsula at Al Raas where you may spot flamingos and other wild birds. Some adventure seekers even go as far as exploring the mangroves along the coast on a kayak. If a beach is what you want, there are plenty in the eastern coast of Fujairah as well. A popular destination is the quaint little town of Dibbah on the east coast entry point to the Mussandam Peninsula.

Distance: 2hrs 10mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 1hr from Safa Park

Banan Beach Resort

The new campsite is located at the ultra-peaceful Banan Beach Resort, a beachfront venue that is home to the most retro tents you’ll see, as well as beachside chalets and even hammocks by the water. The property is located in Jebel Ali, Dubai, near the Expo 2020 site. There are 47 camping tents sprawled across the beach and five beach side chalets with comfortable beds. Amenities like bathrooms, a BBQ station and Wi-Fi are available for everyone. There’s a lot to do there including dining, drinking, 12 different types of water activities, moonlight yoga and just plain relaxing by the shores. The beach-side chalets are available for those who don’t love sleeping on the floor. They start at around Dh1,000 per night and there’s a little pool in each of them too! The golden shores and friendly environment make it such a relaxing place that will really take you away from the hectic Dubai city life.

Location Jebel Ali, Banan Beach Resort Cost Dh350 for a night in the tent, Starting from Dh1,000 for a night in the chalet

What are the Do’s and Don’ts?

Gulf News spoke to Roy Barghout, a camping expert and the founder of FindBargo a camping video blog for the region.

Do bring lots of garbage bags. In addition to cleaning up after yourself, sometimes the bags come in handy for your own things. Dubai Municipality also pointed out that residents who dump their rubbish in the desert and set up fires in public places will be slapped with a Dh500 fine.

Do bring warm clothes. The dessert has a reputation for being ‘a hot place’ it can get very cold enough in the desert cannot only make or break your camping experience, it could also prove to be dangerous if you aren’t bundled up enough.

Don’t go barefoot. Keep your feet warm and covered during your camping trip.

Don’t take glass and don’t use glass bottles. Always use reusable containers. Some people take glass and it breaks, and you get shards on the ground.”

Do bring a head torch so that when you’re cooking, both your hands are free and you’re less likely to burn yourself.

Do plan where you place your barbecue to avoid any mishaps. Cooking beside the fire might not be the best idea.

Don’t bury the barbecue after you finish cooking right away. The sand can get boiling hot and people often burn themselves from stepping on that area or sitting there. So wait until it has cooled down

Do bring a lot of firewood. It’s for the ambiance, for light and for warmth. But, mainly for ambiance because people usually gather around fires. It is the social setting.

Never hunt for animals in the wildlife. It is not allowed and it is a criminal offence to do so. It is also prohibited to remove sand and big trees, but if residents want to take small plants then there is no problem with that

Always leave your campsite cleaner than how you found it. Respect that this is a sanctuary and leave it the way it is.


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