My schoolfriend from Nairn, Scotland, was visiting the UAE with his wife; I planned a tour to let them experience the real UAE and this is what we showed them!
We started our offroad tour by stopping in past the first CSR plant in the Middle East – Shams Power Station
The google screenshot shows the massive site which is screened from the road by shadecloth
but you really had to be there on the viewing platform to reflect on the power of a quarter of a million mirrors!
Afterwards we headed straight into the dunes, taking a scenic but smooth route
The photo shows the undulating terrain
but you really had to be there to see for yourself the massive mounds of sand, dotted here and there with small plants
You can’t really say you’ve been to the desert until you’ve done some wild camping in the dunes so we stopped and pitched out tents around 25kms from MZ
The picture shows our secluded little campspot for the night.
But you had to be there to watch the stars appear in the inky black sky and to listen to…. silence. No traffic or 21st century noise!
We chose a camp spot in the shelter of a huge barchan (crescent shaped) dune which are typical sand formations in this area
The photo shows Donald and our dogs walking down a slipface.
but you really had to be there to hear the roar and feel the vibration of the “singing sands” as millions of tiny particles created a small avalanche of sand
We arrived in time for Donald to climb to the top of the highest dune nearby to catch the sun on its descent
The picture shows the sun, low in the sky around 6.30pm.
but you really had to be there to watch as the shadows lengthened and the dunes turned from gold into a deep terracotta, just before the sun sank behind the horizon
Mixing traditional taste with modern presentation, we cooked camel burgers for supper
The photo shows some camel burgers on the bbq
but you really had to be there to savour the smell as they cooked and taste how moist and juicy they were!
At this time of year the sun rises just before 6am – and Donald got up early (on his own!) to walk to the top of the dune to capture it
the picture shows the sun just a few minutes after appearing on the eastern horizon
But you really had to be there to glimpse the first touch of sunlight on the beautiful desert landscape
It transpired that Donald is a keen driver at home so after a quick tutorial on sand driving we stuck him in the driving seat
the photo shows …. well you can see how chuffed he was!
but you really have to be there to drive your car through sand dunes to know how thrilling the experience can be
I often pass camel farms in the desert and occasionally find some “free range”
The photo shows one of a few herds of camels we encountered
But you really had to be there to gaze in awe as these beautiful creatures gently crossed their native land
One of my main reasons (ok excuses) for acquiring a dog was that it added another heritage point for my events
The photo shows my two Arabian Hunting Dogs – the Magnificent Salukis
But you really had to be there to marvel at their running speeds and the ease which they climb the steepest dunes
One of the UAE’s favourite fast foods is shwarma, so we took Don and Sue to our favourite cafe
The photo shows us at the Shwarma Shop – one of the best in the UAE
But you really had to be there to watch the guys preparing the shwarma and falafel and of course to taste the results
Then it was back to our home for a most welcome shower and a few hours sleep with the A/C on full blast/
I took our visitors to the Liwa Crescent area – a 140km long oasis, some 150kms from the sea!
To fortify us for our journey we bought some manakesh which we then took to the local park for a breakfast picnic
The photos shows us tucking into a breakfast picnic at one of Madinat Zayed’s parks
but you really had to be there to taste the freshly baked manakesh and to enjoy sitting in a beautifully green park in the desert
Once fed, we headed around 80kms south and our first stop was Al Qutuf Fort
The picture shows the fort in all its early morning beauty
but you really had to be there to climb the stairs to the turret and to imagine a time long ago when forts were places of safety for the oasis families
One “attraction” which never fails to tickle my guests is the Liwa fish farm
The photo shows some of the resident ducks at the fish farm
but you really had to be there to witness for yourself the bizarre sight of fish swimming around in waterpools in the Empty Quarter
We drove to one of the many Madhar (means small settlement next to a water source) perched atop hills in the area.
the photo shows a “tiny” old tower in one of the date planations (see below)
but you really had to be there to appreciate the scale of the plantations, stretching as far as the eye can see.
We carried on to the next Madhar further up the hill and found another good viewpoint, this time looking northwards
the photos show the view from the highest point in the area
but you really had to be there to gaze over the oases and dunes beyond, without an electricity pylon or a highway in sight!
Al hayla tower is hidden in a date plantation a short walk from the road so I had to drag my guests out of the air conditioned car!
The photo shows the oldest surviving fortification in the area
but you really had to be there to feel how much cooler it was inside the date plantation and to wonder that this tower had stood for so many years
We stopped at the Liwa Hotel for coffee
The photo shows us on the hotel’s terrace
But you had to be there to enjoy the comfort and cleanliness, not to mention taste the lovely coffee, after a morning in the desert.
After our coffee it was time for a return to a different area of desert, where the terrain included massive slipfaces up to 90 metres high
the photo shows a massive slipface, easily accessible by sand track
but you really had to be there to look up to the massive wall of sand and appreciate just how small we are in the desert landscape
Our last stop took us to the Moreeb Dune (translates as scary hill), another massive slipface and the site of the annual Liwa International Festival
the backdrop to the photo is the moreeb, one of the highest slipfaces in the UAE, the top of which is 300metres above sea level
but you really had to be there to see the gravity-defying angle of the dune
So there you have it – a feast for all the senses! Photos just do not do it justice!
Liwa is the perfect place for a most excellent adventure!
The best time to visit is between mid October and mid April. Ideal for adventurers, nature lovers, photographers.
A huge thank you to Donald for letting me use his brilliant photos – thank you for letting me drag you into the desert!