Don and Sue’s Excellent Liwa Adventure

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!

Day One


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

2016-04-19 18.12.14

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

2016-05-14 21.45.52

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!


Day Two


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

2016-04-20 11.57.08

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/


Day Three

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

2016-04-21 11.29.06

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

2016-04-21 12.44.20

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!


  1. Lesley Keddy says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and I really would like to be there to experience the same adventure!

  2. Kate Campbell says:

    Just found your blog as we are about to start our trip around Oman! So wish we had found you before,we have tried to find like minded adventurers like yourselves while we have been living in Dubai,but only found a handful! We lived in Saudi and used to go to the desert nearly every weekend and have so missed it here in the UAE! I was just in Madinat Zayed earlier this week and would loved to have met you! Where is your Shawarma place,it’s also our favourite snack? If you are going out in October please let me know,we could perhaps meet up,we love the desert and camping,or any of the wadis etc!

    • Marina Bruce says:

      Hi Kate
      thanks for stopping by! Our shawarma place is in the service road just north of the ADNOC Oasis in MZ. In terms of meeting up – will email you directly.

      Kind regards

Comments are closed.

Would you like to subscribe to our monthly newsletter?

We will send you our latest news, new trip listings, interesting links, bonnie photos and much more!

(ps- Yallah! means "let's go")

You have successfully subscribed! Let the adventures begin!