If you live in Dubai, camping with the fam is an absolute must. The desert and beaches are the ultimate playground for kids (and big kids), with oodles of space, fresh air and sand dunes to romp around in. With temperatures already starting to climb, get your trip sorted before mid April or you’ll have to wait until November when the mercury starts to come back down!
We’ll be honest, a camping trip with the littles is a mission – so make sure you pack right and go prepared – and expect to bring a LOT of sand back with you. But we promise it’s all worth it and when you’re toasting marshmallows and sleeping under canvas with your family, you’ll think so too.
Psst…the first rule of camping – leave your spot as you’d like to find it – take litter with you please mamas!
Where to Camp
If you have kids in tow, there’s no need to get too adventurous (for them a tent in the garden is exciting so it really doesn’t matter if you’re not far from home). There are some really fun camping spots just a short distance from main roads (perfect if you’re a first-timer or are nervous of being too far from civilization and want to have back-up facilities within easy reach!).
The UAE’s East coast beaches are the perfect place to set up camp. Head to the stretch of sand near the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort for family friendly fun (and if your trip doesn’t quite go to plan then you’ve got hotels nearby!).
If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous and don’t mind a little longer in the car, around a 4 hr drive from Dubai, in the Abu Dhabi Emirate, is the stunning Liwa Oasis. This is one of the ultimate desert camping experiences – this is the heart of the world’s biggest sand desert with enormous dunes, an incredible landscape. Remember never to go off-road exploring without a convoy (you really wouldn’t want to get lost here mamas) and take lots of provisions. Good news is that all the villages around here sell camping gear and firewood plus the very amazing Qasr Al Sarab resort is always there should you want to ditch the tent and sleep in a luscious bed instead.
Big Red (or nearby)
Big Red is exactly that – a big red dune that’s easy to spot on the Dubai-Hatta Road (about a 45 min drive from town). While the dune itself is buzzing with 4 x 4’s and quad bikers, the area around it offers beautiful secluded camping and stunning photo opps. Head towards the village of Madam, which is just before the Hatta border crossing – you’ll pass a bunch of shops selling everything from carpets to tents – after which there’ll be an entrance over a cattle (camel) grid on the right hand side – just keep on driving and pick your spot!
The East coast entry point to the Mussandam Peninsula, Dibba is a quaint little town – and while camping on the beach itself is no longer allowed (that’s the price to pay with too much littering mamas), there are plenty of open spaces nearby that are equally lovely – with crystal clear waters just a few minutes away and a stunning backdrop of mountains to enjoy. You can keep on trucking North to Mussandam proper and follow any track off the main road to find a remote, exclusive (but rocky) campsite. You can also get to Mussandam via the West coast – head North through RAK and into Oman (remember passports and insurance!) and discover deserted beaches just off the main road to camp on.
Umm Al Quwain
Another beach location mamas – this time near to Al Rafaah (head towards Dreamland Waterpark and then follow signs to Al Rafaah). This area is ideal if you want to have a go at a spot of fishing, kayak the mangroves or spot flamingos. Remember to take tides into consideration or your tent will end up under water.
Arabian Ranches (kind of)
If you want to play it quite safe and not have to travel far at all, drive out past Arabian Ranches on the Al Qudra Road and make a break for it wherever you see a track or opening. Nestle your camp between the dunes for the best way to stay protected from the wind and feel cosy, private and far away from the world (although close enough to feel reassured if you’re a first-timer!).
Join A Group
Safety (and fun) in numbers mamas –there are plenty of group options if you don’t fancy going solo and want someone else to do the organizing. We love…
Call these guys for a run-down of all the many trips they offer (they can tailor-make an experience to suit your group and will take into consideration ages of kids etc so you can rest-assured that your littles will be well catered for). All camping equipment, food and extras such as camel riding and falcon shows will be included – perfect if you want to pack up and go without having to deal with logistics or sandy stuff to clean afterwards.
Arabian Adventures, (+971) (0) 4 214 4888, www.arabian-adventures.com
Fathers & Kids Camping Middle East
Send the littles off for a little bonding over a camp-fire and a night under the stars with this awesome group, headed by Vahid Fotuhi – a super cool daddy whose love of adventure and the great outdoors is infectious. With approximately 7 trips to choose from each year, you can expect awesome locations and plenty of activities to keep kids as young as 3 happy – from teaching them about making camp-fires to discovering desert critters. Mamas are banned from all trips except 1 each year – we’ve already reserved our spot!
Fathers & Kids Camping Middle East, www.fakc.me
Ok mamas so if your idea of camping involves feather duvets and hot running water, then glamping might be more your style…
Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort, Sir Bani Yas Island
The latest addition to the Anantara collection on the Arabian Wildlife Park nature reserve on Sir Bani Yas Island, the property claims to cater to visitors seeking a thrilling “glamping” adventure (although we think this is a bit of a stretch – the 30 rustic-chic villas look fairly luxurious to us mamas!). The location is very special, set in the middle of the park, inhabited by 10,000 animals, including endangered species like Arabian oryx. The villas are designed with local materials, traditional furniture, and some have private plunge pools. This is one for older kiddos – over 12’s only (sorry teenies).
See our full review here.
Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort, (+971) (0) 2 801 4300, www.al-sahel.anantara.com
Bedouin Oasis in Ras Al Khaimah
A traditional Bedouin experience in the heart of the desert – yes please! All you have to do is book and show up – everything else is taken care of (no need to struggle with tent pegs and pump up your mattress here). Cool extras include drumming sessions, horse-riding and educational stuff for kids – bringing the magic of the desert to life.
Arabian Incentive, (+971) (0) 4 266 6020, www.arabianincentive.com
Desert Nights Camp, Oman
Just a 2 hr drive from Muscat is the only luxury desert camp in Oman – 30 luxurious Bedouin style tents (2 of which are family suites) stuffed full of everything you could possibly wish for at the end of a day exploring the wadis and sands (think fluffy beds, tiled bathrooms and beautiful verandahs overlooking the stunning landscape). Heaven.
Desert Nights Camp, (+968) 92818388, www.desertnightscamp.com
Dreamland Aqua Park
Yup that’s right, you can enjoy a day on the slides before getting comfy in the park’s own wooden cabins, complete with a/c and inflatable mattresses plus a bbq for each group AND a cooler box full to the brim with everything you’ll need. Campers also get access to a special pool until 1am if you want a midnight dip and there’s lots of grassy areas for the littles to get even more exhausted running around on before they hit their blow-up beds. There’s also the option to bring a tent if you’d rather pretend you’re roughing it a little (but still want all the park facilities right under your nose).
Dreamland Aqua Park, (+971) (0) 6768 1888, www.dreamlanduae.com
Full of ideas but got no gear? Mamas get planning (preparation, list making and being seriously organised is the only way to make camping with kids stress-free!). From tents to picnic chairs, coolers to sleeping bags, hit up the following stores and get geared up.
What doesn’t Ace Hardware have? They’ve got their own selection of camping equipment for those wanting to rough it or glamp it up, from swanky electric coolers, outdoor picnic sets for you to carry your chow in and of course a number of quality tents for you to lay yourself down in.
Ace Hardware, Dubai Festival City, also a Sheikh Zayed Road location, (+971) (0) 80 027 5223, www.aceuae.com
Ranging from the small to the positively glamporous, Adventure HQ’s got a great range of camping products that’ll have you covered your whole trip through. With a number of items coming from Aussie brand OZtrail, we’re loving the easy foldable chairs and mosquito nets – perfect for keeping the nasties away at night. With locations all over Dubai, you’ll be hard pressed not to find one of their nifty branches.
Adventure HQ, G/F, Times Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, more locations in JBR and The Galleria Mall, (+971) (0) 4 346 6824, www.adventurehq.ae
While you’re picking up your groceries at Carrefour mamas, you’ll be able to snag a number of super budget-friendly essentials as well. With a number of cute kids’ sleeping bags, an inflatable bed and a number of tents in different sizes, this is a great option for families trying out camping for the first time.
Carrefour, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, see more locations here, (+971) (0) 8 007 3232, www.carrefouruae.com
Ah, good old Dubizzle. The camping and hiking section is always full of people trying to get rid of mint tents, sleeping bags and whatever else you think you’ll need. As with anything you grab of Dubizzle however, make sure to ask for more photos of whatever you buy to make sure it’s in the condition it’s purported to be. That said, grabbing a tent for a fraction of the price is a gamble we’re willing to take.
This online store’s got everything a camping guru could ever want, from the usual tent and sleeping bag fare to even toilet necessities and caravans! We love how they have a broad range of international brands and they deliver all over the UAE – and all for free if you spend over AED 500. That’s as good a reason as any to go on a road trip…
Happy Camping Mamas! xx