Billion-star accommodation: to really experience nature in the UAE, go camping

With so many luxury hotels in the UAE, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting somewhere to stay if we want a short break or change of scenery. Despite this, accommodation at the opposite end of the spectrum is more popular than ever (it’s zero-star-rated and you even have to supply your own beds) and we’re currently experiencing the ideal weather for it: camping.

If you’ve ever been tempted to try it for yourself, this country isn’t short on supply when it comes to places to pitch a tent. Vast swathes of desert, mountains, wadis and remote beaches – the great outdoor beckons, and it’s more varied in its terrain than you might have thought. Saying that, camping isn’t something you can just do on a whim; it takes planning and the acquisition of a fair bit of kit, especially if you’re considering doing it more than once. It’s wise to talk to a seasoned camper to find out what you actually can’t do without while getting down with nature in this part of the world.

Obviously, a tent will be first on the list, and the choice is almost frustratingly wide, although it’s worth paying a bit more for sturdy equipment if you intend on being a regular in the desert. You can find a wide selection at Adventure HQ stores, sports outlets, supermarkets or online at sites such as Gulfcamping.com, and prices range from about Dh300 to Dh3,000, depending on how big you want it to be. It might also be worth checking what’s for sale on sites like Dubizzle or the various Facebook pages where residents sell used goods.

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That’s the accommodation sorted, so what else do you need? Something to sleep on and in, so an air bed or some sort of cushioning mat and sleeping bags. The desert can get cold at night, so it’s important to make sure you’re warm and that means packing suitable clothing. You’ll need to take plenty of drinking water, food, a means of cooking (barbecue, stove, something to light it with), a kettle, fuel for a fire, phone chargers, a torch, a shovel, some loo roll, refuse bags and a tow rope in case you get your car stuck in the sand. You should also never be without an insect repellent and a first aid kit. The likelihood of getting a bite from something nasty-looking might be low, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure there are bandages, plasters, sting ointment and antiseptic in there.

Dubai residents Mike and Linda Cartwright have been avid campers for years, having been bitten by the bug when they lived in United Kingdom. “We used to explore the countryside whenever we could,” recalls Mike. “Every summer we’d pack the car and tour France or Spain for a couple of weeks. We were a young family, and it was the only way we could afford to holiday abroad – the kids loved it and we think it taught them a lot about nature, wildlife, practicality – that sort of thing,” he says.

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When they moved here six years ago (Mike is a civil engineer), it “sort of slipped off the radar”, admits Linda. “We viewed the desert as a bit harsh for camping and, to be honest, we underestimated the diversity of the nature. It was the kids who got us back into it, and even though they’re now teenagers, they still love it. We’ve been all over the place – to Oman and all across the emirates, and the clarity of the air once you get out of the city is enough to make it all worthwhile. Seeing the night sky without any light pollution is very special – for us it’s a brilliant way to decompress, especially for Mike, who can get really stressed with his job.”

Source Credit: The National

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