People are always talking about camping around this time of year, trying to get a few trips in before the weather becomes unbearably hot.
Talking in theory is one thing, but then our kind Canadian friends invited us to go – on a specific weekend, to a specific place. My husband loves camping, so there was no backing out now.
We were lucky enough to tag along with their friends, as well – avid campers who knew the scene and were equipped with the patience and gear to host us newbies to UAE camping life.
So last Saturday, armed with our Toyota Yaris and 25 dirham-Carrefour sleeping bags, (roughly $8.50 Canadian… you don’t need heavy-duty Coleman for this weather!) we set off to Al Qudra Lakes.
Described as a good spot for the “entry-level camper”, Al Qudra is a relatively accessible cluster of man-made lakes in the desert, just a short 30-minute drive from Dubai.
It’s also home to 49 km cycling track, along with Trek cycle store, where you can rent a bike for the day.
Before embarking on our journey to the “oasis”, we made a stop at the facilities beside the store – one last opportunity for running water and flushing toilets (yes, I am being dramatic, we would only be gone for 24 hours, but still).
So, here are my pros and cons of camping in Dubai, derived from our trip to Al Qudra:
PRO: Lakes in the desert. It’s a beautiful sight to be playing in the water and see vast stretches of sand in the background. It’s also a nice opportunity to cool down after you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat getting everything set up.
CON: The lakes, like many other things in Dubai, are man-made. This means that you can feel, and sometimes see, the plastic sheeting that keeps it all from drying up in the desert sand. Also, it means that things can be slippery.
PRO: You’re free to set up pretty much anywhere, as there are no designated camping sites. As long as you find a flat surface for your tent, you’re good to go.
CON: Because there are no designated sites, there are no designated “washrooms.” It’s not always easy to find a spot over a sand dune where you’re sure nobody can see you.
PRO: You don’t have to have a 4X4 to get to your spot in the desert (unlike most other areas), because the sand/dirt roads are packed down and relatively well maintained.
CON: Because the sand/dirt roads are well maintained, it means it’s not uncommon to come upon several tractors on your way to your desired spot. Ah, Dubai, construction everywhere.
PRO: You get a great breeze and unobstructed views of the stars because there’s nothing in the way.
CON: And by nothing, I mean you could probably count the number of above waist-height trees on one hand. To be expected, though, of course, but it also means BYOS (bring your own shade).
All in all, despite my general unease with camping (is it obvious?), it was a great first trip in the UAE.
We were very lucky to have well-equipped, gracious hosts who knew the ropes, and not to mention, were amazing cooks who provided us with a traditional South African “potjiekos” feast, which definitely sweetened the deal.
Would I do it again? Maybe, probably – for love. (I myself prefer the relaxation that only a proper bed and running water can bring.)
If you’re part of that special breed of people, like my husband, that enjoy the satisfaction of playing, cooking, and sleeping in the outdoors, you can check out details on Al Qudra and other UAE camping spots here.