Camping in the UAE

Bubble Dome Tent, Jebel Hafit 

Hatta Seda Trailers 

Fossil Rock, Sharjah 

The UAE has a multitude of different camping environments – suitable for an absolute novice to the most experienced camper. Where To HQ has got together and discussed their loves for all things tent shaped and come up with their top tips for camping in the Emirates and their absolute must-haves.  But don’t worry if ‘roughing-it’ in nature is not for you (Yes, CEO Rachael we are talking to you!), we have also got a list of the top glamping sites for camping in utter luxury with all the modern amenities.  

 

Camping is incredibly popular in the UAE and intrepid explorers head out to all corners to find the best sites to set up camp.  Whether it be camping in the desert, on the beach, in a Wadi or up a mountain, the UAE has it all.  Because of its hot and humid nature, most people head off camping in the cooler months of October to April and popular sites can get busy especially during the weekends.   With any type of camping in the UAE the key is to BE PREPARED, find out as much as you can about that type of camping and prepare accordingly.  If it is your first time, we suggest heading to an official campsite to get the lay of the land or at least get some mates together, so you have some moral support… or someone to pull you out if you get stuck!

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Where To Top Tips

Where you are:
  • At high elevations and in the desert, temperatures can drop below zero so make sure you pack accordingly.  Blankets, hoodies and fluffy socks will be your best friend!

  • Wadis are subject to flash flooding especially in the cooler months, so plan your trip carefully and check weather forecasts.

  • Tides can be unpredictable – so check tide timings.

  • When traveling out to the desert make sure you have told someone back home where you are heading – at least give them a rough estimate or a pinned location is even better.

  • Be prepared! Take with you plenty of water, emergency supplies, first aid kt etc. (See our packing list for more essential items)

 

Travelling To and from:
  • Tyre Pressures – 18psi is suggested for larger vehicles when driving on sand and make sure reinflate them when you are back on concrete.

  • It’s a good idea to get your car washed as soon as you can after being on the sand – your engine will thank you!

  • Always have the contact details of a nearby desert rescue service.

Your Tent:
  • Don’t set up camp on the blind side of a sand dune – you don’t want a 4x4 crashing the party… literally.

  • Check tide reports and don’t camp directly by the water, unless you want at best soggy feet or at worst a floating tent. 

  • Face the tent entrance away from the wind.

  • Shake out your shoes before putting them on – to get rid of the sand but also to check that any pesky scorpions haven’t taken up residence in your footwear (I am being serious).

Food:
  • Freeze your water bottles to keep water colder for longer (also can be used as ice packs to keep food colder) – you should aim to take at least 4 litres per person per night. And make sure you take extra for washing up/washing hands etc. 

  • For someone that can’t live without their cup of coffee freeze an ice cube tray worth of milk

  • Pre prep all your food before you leave – saves on washing up and less sand in your food (hopefully).

  • Bring ready to eat snacks – there is nothing worse than a hungry child (or hangry adult) waiting for a campfire/BBQ meal that’s taking longer than you thought to cook. 

  • Make sure kids play away from food prep area – it might even be advisable to have set areas in your campsite to stop accidents of unnecessarily sandy burgers.  

Take nothing but memories, Leave nothing but footprints.
 

What to Pack  

As well as all the normal essentials you would need for camping there are certain items that will make camping in the UAE a more pleasurable and safer overall experience. 

UAE Essential Packing Guide:
  • Gazebo/Shade Covering – in the heat of the desert there is not much natural shade around, so you’ll be thankful for this during the heat of the daytime. 

  • Tarp or ground-mat – sand gets everywhere so try to have a system of shaking the majority of sand off before entering the tent.

  • Toilet Tent and Shovel – you’ll be thankful for a little bit of privacy when nature calls! 

  • Beach/Sand Pegs – camping in the sand is a whole different ballgame and you’ll need to get yourself some sturdy sand pegs to make sure your tent stays secure. 

  • Bin Bags – you want to leave the area as you found it, or if possible, even better, so take some binbags for both rubbish and recycling.

  • Blankets/Jumpers/Socks – even though you might not think it the UAE can get very cold at night, especially if camping in the desert or at high altitudes. So, bring some warm stuff to keep the cold at bay.

  • A well-stocked First Aid Kit - with burn spray, eye drops, suncream and mozzie spray.

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Dome Tent in Ras Al Khaimah

 
  • Solar Lanterns – why not utilise that natural solar power (there will be a lot of it) and light up your camp with some solar lanterns.  I’ve even seen some cute fairy light ones if you want your campsite to look a little ‘extra’!

  • Portable Charger for phones – You’ll need to conserve battery on at least one of your phones in case you get stuck or get into a sticky situation.  But a portable phone charger can be really helpful in case you get a bit snap happy. 

  • Headlamps – you might feel a bit silly at first, but we guarantee everyone will want to steal yours by the end of the trip!

  • Rake – if you are on a slightly rocky or scrubby piece of sand it will be an idea to run a rake over it to remove any rocks, debris or any litter that could make for an uncomfortable night. 

  • Tyre pressure gauge/Compressor/Tow Ropes/Jumper Cables – you can never be too prepared.

 

Where To Top Picks

Whether no-frills camping, absolutely luxury, a unique experience or just enjoying time with your four-legged pal is your thing... Where To HQ has done the leg work for you and come up with 5 of the best camping spots in the UAE.

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Dog Enjoying Campfire

Camping with your dog

5 places to camp with your own equipment in the UAE: 

We couldn't choose what we liked better; beach, desert, mountain, lake or wadi... So we chose one of each.

 

  1. Al Qudra Lakes, Dubai (Lake) – This is one of the most popular BBQ and camping sites in Dubai.  So be prepared to get there early to nab a great spot.  Close enough to the city that you don’t feel abandoned in the desert but also far enough away so you can star gaze to your hearts delight.  Enjoy waking up to the sounds of the natural wildlife that congregate at the banks of these artificial lakes. 

  2. Fossil Rock, Sharjah (Mountain) – Not technically a mountain but Fossil Rock in Sharjah is something to behold, nonetheless.  This is, as the name suggests, literally a rock made of fossils and you and your family can enjoy some epic hikes once you’ve set up your tent. 

  3. “The Empty Quarter” Liwa Oasis, Abu Dhabi (Desert) – Not for the feint-hearted and you will definitely need a 4x4 for this one, well they don’t call it the Empty Quarter for nothing!  The towering dunes and endless red-gold sand make a staggering backdrop for sunsets and sunrises. 

  4. Um Al Quwain Coast, Um Al Quwain (Beach) – Enjoy some peaceful beach camping (but far enough from the water as no one likes a soggy tent!).  For any keen fishermen (or women) this is an awesome fishing spot, and you might even catch site some beautiful flamingos grabbing their dinner even if you don’t catch any fish yourself. 

  5. Wadi Shawka, Ras Al Khaimah (Wadi) – If you’re in the mood for some adventure head to Wadi Shawka.  Spend your days exploring and hiking the wadi and your nights chilling around your campfire. 

5 places to Glamp in absolute luxury in the UAE: 

Craving some soft sheets, pampering and luxury… These are the glamping spots for you. 

  1. Bedouin Oasis (Ras Al Khaimah) -  Spend a night in Bedouin opulence under the stars in the Ras Al Khaimah.  The hand-made natural material tents will provide the perfect place to rest your head after spending the evening participating in desert activities and entertainment.  

  2. Kalba Kingfisher Retreat (Sharjah) -  This is the real deal!  Arrive on a private boat to a private island with your own luxury appointed tent, with every mod-con you can think of.  Enjoy amazing views of the Indian Ocean from your own private pool area.  

  3. Full Moon Camping, Anantara  (Sir Bani Yas) - Join in on this monthly retreat at the Anantara in Sir Bani Yas to enjoy the splendour of the full moon in ultimate luxury.  This adventure includes loads of activities to allow you to get back to nature including a wilderness drive through the 1,400 hectares of nature reserve.

  4. Bubble Tents, Jebel Hafit Desert Park (Al Ain) - Enjoy some luxury while soaking in the magnificent views of Jebel Hafit.  These dome tents even include a TV, fridge and air conditioning so you won’t be short of home comforts during your stay.

  5. Nara Desert Escape (Dubai) -  You’ll feel like a celebrity camping with Nara Desert Escape.  The luxurious nomadic tents are set up exclusively for you and your group.  There are numerous bespoke options for you and your guests to choose from and each experience is tailored to each guest.  Every detail is considered even down to the Nara blankets laid out for each guest upon arrival. 

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Bab Al Nojoum, Huudriyat Island

5 unique places to camp in the UAE: 

Looking for something cool, unique and snap-worthy check out these top picks. 

  1. Bab Al Nojoum, Converted Vintage Vans (Huudriyat Island, Abu Dhabi) - Get some ultimate Retro vibes staying in one of the vintage vehicles at Bab Al Najoom on Huudriyat Island.  Choose either a vintage VW Camper or a refurbished 4x4 for a stay that can only be described as small but mighty!

  2. Bnbme, mystery Bedouin camping (all over the UAE) - Choose from a glamping experience in the desert or on the beach and you won’t find out where you are going until after you make the booking!  Everything is included, apart from food and drink, and you even get a long list of activities to partake it.  And they even provide a singer!

3.  Panoramic Dome Tents, Long Beach (Ras Al Khaimah) -  If ‘getting back to nature’ is not really your thing then the dome     tents at Long Beach, RAK should be just up your alley.  These self-contained suites have enough space to sleep 4 people  on proper beds… not a camping mat in site) and have every luxury you might think of.  Combine that with a spectacular view, your own personal hot tub and comprehensive list of sporting and wellness activities to try you’ll want to stay for weeks not    just a night. 

 4.  Hatta Sedr Trailers, Vintage Airstream Camper (Hatta) -  Here you can stay on the banks of Hatta Dam in your own insta- worthy vintage airstream trailer.  Leaving your car at reception, you will be transported to your (not so) little home-from-   home nestled into the mountains.  The Sedr Trailer park will reopen in 2022 – watch this space! 

5.  The Retreat, Eco Lodge (Fujairah) -  Stay in this little eco-haven to firmly plant yourself back in nature.  This glamp was built with sustainability and the environment in mind, even using home-grown organic veggies for their food options and their home-made teas and soups.

5 places to camp with your dog in the UAE:

Can’t bear to be apart from your furry friend?  Don’t worry, with these dog-friendly camping spots you don’t have to be.

  1. Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, Jebel Jais (Ras Al Khaimah) -  If adventure is your game, this first of its kind camp by the leading outdoor-sy man himself, Bear Grylls, is your place!  This ‘back-to-basics’ camp is burrowed into a flat wadi shadowed by the monstrous Jebel Jais. The camp is made up of 9 shipping converted shipping containers which are basic, but comfortable. And even better you can bring your four-legged pal along for the fun.  

  2. RAK Glamping (Ras Al Khaimah) -  This hidden gem of a glamping spot is where Fido comes first!  Run by the dog loving duo Neil and Amanda, this paw-fect resort prides itself on providing the Emirates first dogcation. But not to worry, the two-legged variety are well catered for as well in beautiful accommodation.  

  3. Starlight Camp Pop Up (Dubai) - For a more exclusive glamping experience, the Starlight Camp, is a pop-up campsite entirely for you and your party… Oh and your dog of course!  It is situated in the dunes of the Arabian Desert but only about 45 minutes of Dubai, so not too far away for those of you that like to stay a bit closer to civilisation.  They provide everything you might need – even poo bags for your pooch!

  4. Kite Beach (Umm Al Quwain) -  This Instagram-able beach paradise is not just a haven to adventure loving humans but to man’s best friend as well.  Not only are dogs allowed to stay, but they are also allowed on the beach and in the water as well!  Check out the stilted beach huts if you feel like splashing out.  

  5. JA Hatta Fort Hotel (Hatta) -  Technically a bit of a cheat entry as it is a hotel not technically a campsite, but the JA Hatta Fort Hotel deserved a special mention, nonetheless.  Spend a night with your doggy best friend gazing out over the Hajar mountains and a day exploring the hiking trails.  Though if camping is really your bag dogs are also welcome at the Hatta camping ground.  

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