We've been back from camping for two days and have just about got rid of all the sand from various nooks and crannies. I thought I would report on the weekend in the form of some tips for anyone else who may be considering their first camping trip in the UAE, or is packing their life into a container about to move here, and wondering whether to use space for their camping gear.
1: Don't think twice about driving 200 miles for one night camping
It may seem a lot to drive 200 miles, spend an hour unpacking and putting your tent up, only to do it all in reverse less than 24 hours later, but it's worth it. You are in a new country and you need to see as much of it as possible so make the effort. I never imagined I would be camping on a beach close to the border of Saudi Arabia, and yes the landscape was desolate, but the beach was beautiful, and it was great to see another part of the UAE. Anyway the main roads here are always at least dual carriage way so quick progress can be made, indeed it was only a little after lunchtime when our convoy of six cars turned off the main road, drove round the camel track, and arrived at the beach.
|Who wouldn't want to camp here?|
2: Leave your gear behind, start again in the UAE
We brought most of our existing gear with us from the UK, taking up valuable room in our container. With the benefit of hindsight I wouldn't have bothered. You can pick up all the equipment you need for a night or two camping easily and cheaply here, particularly from places like Carrefour. Some of the gear you can get here is probably more suited to the desert or beaches. We discovered this with our tent, which was a pain to erect in the sea breeze that was blowing when we arrived at Al Sila'a, whereas our friends had their tent up and were ready to enjoy their first beer within 15 minutes of arriving.
|Finally, a little lopsided, but somewhere to sleep|
3: They make special pegs for the sand
It never even occurred to me that the "normal" pegs we bought from the UK would be completely unsuitable for sand, particularly when pitching a tent in windy conditions. I only realized there is such a thing as "sand pegs" when a fellow camper (the one who had already pitched his tent) asked whether we had any. I felt somewhat foolish when answering in the negative, but we battled onward and managed to get enough pegs to stay in the ground to get the tent up, albeit a little lopsided.
It wasn't to last though. Having been buffeted by the wind for 12 hours, at 2am on Saturday I awoke with a start having been clattered in the face by a collapsing tent pole. I quickly woke Jo and the kids and we had to make a bolt for the car where we spent the rest of the night, the kids sleeping in the boot (which they thought was great) and Jo and I on the reclined front seats (not getting much sleep).
This is the scene that greeted us at 6am. Needless to say we have now said goodbye to this tent, and will be visiting Carrefour before our next camping trip.
4: Take some friends, lubricate with a drink or two, add music, a roaring camp fire and marshmallows
Between getting our tent up and it blowing down in the early hours we had a lovely time. I'm still not quite sure how many kids were there, they never stood still long enough for me to count them, but I do know that they all had a great time running riot around the campsite and toasting marshmallows on the campfire. Meanwhile the adults took the opportunity to relax, sitting round the fire chatting, listening to music, and enjoying the food and drink we had taken with us (including a lovely Chilli, and Jo's slush punch). We finally turned in around midnight once the battery on the music player had run out, and the last of the punch had gone, but it was a great afternoon and evening.
5: Take it all in
In between everything that is going on take some time to enjoy what is going on around you. A couple of things I took some time to take in were the stunning sunrise on Saturday, and the locals exercising their camels on the race track next to our campsite. It has to be said that Jo was a little disappointed by the race track. She had been expecting something along the lines of Aintree I think, with huge grandstands and modern facilities. What we found was a huge oval track with railings that had seen better days (probably about 40 years ago), and ..... nothing else. Never mind.
|Exercising the camels|
|Seen better days|
|A beautiful sunrise|
6: Clean up after yourself
One thing that disappointed me was the litter on the beach when we arrived. I'm not sure whether it had been left by previous campers, or had been thrown overboard from passing boats and washed ashore. It doesn't really matter either way. I understand there can be similar issues if you visit many of the wadis here as well. Anyway, it goes without saying my final tip is to clean up after yourself, indeed why not make a point of taking away more rubbish than you create? Lecture over!
So there we go, my top tips for camping in the UAE. All in all, despite the collapse of our tent, we had a great time, and can't wait for our next trip.
If you have experience of camping in the UAE, what tips would you add to those above? Leave a comment to let me know.
As always thanks for reading.