Desert Rose Digging and Dune Photography Trip

With the excessive heat of the summer almost upon us we had just enough time to schedule an Oasis Offroad trip to my beloved Liwa.


A plan was hatched for what we hoped would be an interesting yet relaxing weekend, advertised on our Oasis Offroad Forum, and very soon we had 12 cars sign up for all/part of the weekend.
Those of us who were fortunate to not be working on a Thursday traveled in convoy from Al Ain by road to Al Qua’a then went overland via Haleeba Mast, over sandtracks and dunes exiting at Himeem, just in time to have a fine curry at Al Anas restaurant.  Here’s a short clip of our adventure – all videos/timelapses are courtesy of the multi-talented Vince Ford.

Once the many platefuls of food and delicious roti were eaten at a cost of  61AED (£11) for 6 of us, it was time to travel by blacktop to the Liwa Hotel where all the group were staying overnight.

*Someone* suggested that everyone meet at the carpark at 4.45am the next morning so we could head off to a secret location to see the sun rise over some majestic dunes and to dig for desert roses. 

Photo Credit: Maira Suarez

A bedouin camel farm had sprung up since I was last there in April so the camel lovers had a bonus photo opportunity.  Finding the desert roses was easy, there were so many of them; some of our members were determined to unearth massive ones which took some serious digging effort.

When the trip joining instructions were sent out one of the suggestions was “take a hand sweeping brush” – now our group knew why!

All the drivers trickled back to the hotel for a tasty breakfast eaten outside on the terrace before spending the next 4 hours sleeping/swimming/sunbathing.

Image from Hotel’s own website

The next activity was a drive through the wonderful smooth, cafe latte coloured dunes around Madinat Zayed.  We assembled at the ADNOC Misairah at 2.30pm before driving to the fodder farm and finding a shady spot for deflation.

Now we could see the sand the next challenge was to get our cars over to it – the Bruces managed a double stuck which had everyone smiling and reaching for their cameras!

We were quickly extracted from our predicament, split into two convoys, one of 5 and the other 6, and made cracking progress over the easy smooth dunes.  Our first waypoint was a spectacular bowl we’d found on a previous visit to the area, a big 40m slipface with a moderate but smooth climb out.  For many of our drivers, this was by far the largest obstacle they had been faced with but all tackled it successfully in style!


Our second stop was the now famous Abandoned Yellow Tanker, a waypoint on the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and a great place for a photocall.  


Heading north east we said farewell to the Tanker and “see you back at the gatch” to Vince’s group and made good progress over some amazing dunes. We saw a number of gazelle, not sure of the exact number though as we might have seen the same pair a few times – suffice to say we saw somewhere between 3 and 9!
Our next unscheduled waypoint was an aquifer cover, one in a long line giving access to vast underwater reserves.  We chucked in a dirham and made a wish, time will tell if it comes true for everyone.
Just up the sandtrack was an old water tank, a massive concrete structure which has been designed and painted to look like a palace from afar – just one of the bizarre sights you come across in the UAE.

Photo Credit: Maira Suarez

Once back at the road we reinflated and raced back to the hotel for a delicious buffet dinner which we had pre-arranged.  The Liwa Hotel is great but not so busy at this time of year and it might have stretched their kitchen staff a bit too far if a table of 21 had just turned up.  As it was we all had a great meal while we exchanged stories about our day’s adventures.

Next day saw us wind our way home, Vince had a group which traveled via White Sands gatch onwards to Al Qua’a, and my group went the super scenic way home.  First stop was the beautiful Qsar Al Sarab hotel for coffee and countless photo opportunities….. extracting the group from this little piece of 5* luxury in the desert was the biggest challenge of the weekend!

Photo Credit: Irene Cruikshanks

We then made a quick visit to the “Plateau” and “Green Lake” finally hitting the road which travels parallel to the Saudi border before it hangs a left just before the Oman border fence.



We travelled close to 1000kms over the weekend, but the most impressive figure is the 55kms we dune bashed in the MZ area with a total of 11 cars in exactly 3 hours.  Our club has put a lot of effort into teaching drivers how to control their cars in the sand and to get the most out of their offroading experience; if this drive was an “exam” they would all have passed with flying colours – well done!

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