HomeTravelThe man who knows every sand dune in Abu Dhabi's Liwa Desert

The man who knows every sand dune in Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Desert

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Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi (CNN) — When Salam Almazrouei was a boy, he and his buddies would play a recreation out in the desert that most individuals would discover terrifying.

In the useless of evening, regardless of being too younger to drive in most nations, they’d take automobiles out into the large sea of sand dunes stretching from Abu Dhabi to Saudi Arabia, then flip the headlights off.

With solely the moon to mild the way in which, they’d then race to see who may make it house in the quickest time.

It was clearly a recreation fraught with peril. Take a incorrect flip, break down or get caught in delicate sand and you would be by yourself, miles from civilization, left to the mercy of a rising desert solar that would convey oven-like temperatures through the day.

“But we never got lost,” he says.

For Almazrouei, these seemingly an identical dunes, stretching so far as the attention can see, are as acquainted as streets are to a metropolis dweller. Although occasional excessive winds can blow the sands round, the terrain, he says, by no means loses its familiarity.

This nook of Liwa Desert, also called Rub’ al Khali or the Empty Quarter, has been house to Almazrouei’s Bedouin household for generations. Although they’ve now arrange houses and companies in Abu Dhabi’s cities and cities, the desert stays in their hearts and so they return frequently.

And now the 46-year-old needs to share it. Inspired by his personal intensive travels as a pupil and engineer, he is tried to brainstorm methods to assist folks from past the UAE have interaction with and benefit from the magic of Liwa.

“At first, I came up with the idea of setting up a camp in the US, in California, complete with 70 Arabian camels,” he says. “But they didn’t allow it because of concerns over foot and mouth disease. And so we then said, ‘let’s set it up here.'”

Swallowed by sand

Liwa Nights options only a handful of tents pitched on a delicate slope.

Barry Neild/CNN

“Here” is a spot of just about otherworldly magnificence. A easy blanket of sand that lightly ruffles out so far as the attention can see. At evening, it basks underneath inky skies alive with stars. During the day, vivid daylight and blue skies.

It’s actually the center of nowhere. It’s a two-hour drive south and west from downtown Abu Dhabi, by way of the small metropolis of Zayed after which one other hour south till the highway reaches nearly its final mile earlier than it is swallowed by sand.

To accommodate guests, Almazrouei has, with the backing of his father, Ibrahim Almazrouei, established Liwa Nights — a sublime tented desert camp that sprawls throughout a delicate slope on the sting of the Empty Quarter.

On the skin, the tents’ white, sandstorm-battered exteriors look practical. Inside, they provide pure glamping luxurious.

Ripping again the Velcro-sealed doorway reveals an aircon-cooled inside, lined with plush drapes, carpeted by a standard rug and lit from above by a sublime lamp dangling from the tent’s lofty ceiling.

There’s a big, comfy double mattress made up with advantageous cotton sheets, a dresser, a wardrobe, a full-length mirror and a espresso desk and chairs. A aspect curtain components to disclose a correct rest room, full with flushing rest room and a bathe kitted out with posh soaps.

If you may pull your self away from considering the huge vacancy and modify to the muffled silence of being so removed from civilization, evening’s sleep is a robust risk.

“I don’t consider it as a hotel, but an experience,” says Almazrouei. “When you get to your room, you will be amazed that everything has been designed by us. When you are in your tent you are in luxury, but step outside and you’re in the desert.”

liwa nights-14

The tents are furnished with luxurious comforts.

Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi

For meals and leisure,Almazrouei has constructed a extra everlasting construction close by. Designed to appear like a standard Middle Eastern home from the 1800s, utilizing imported African wooden, it has a eating room, bar, indoor and out of doors seating and a memento store.

On heat nights, illuminated by fairy lights or a flickering campfire fanned by refreshing breezes, it is the proper place to collect for a cool drink to listen to tales of the desert. In the daytime, it is the assembly place for actions together with camel treks, falconry or dune bashing 4×4 drives.

The greatest time to go to is throughout cooler months from October to March. The place stays shut throughout summer season when it is too scorching. The temperatures solely relent, it is mentioned, in late August when a vivid star referred to as Sulhail seems over the southern horizon.

Roller coaster trip

If Almazrouei is behind the wheel for a Liwa dune bashing tour, be ready for a curler coaster trip. Using abilities honed throughout his moonlit desert races, he is a laid-back daredevil, plunging his dune buggy down near-vertical descents, or tilting it sideways alongside ridges, almost to tipping level.

He navigates by the colour of the sand, the vegetation and the form of the terrain, making a beeline for Moreeb Dune, a colossal slope of sand that towers above a flat plain. Crowds collect right here yearly for the days-long Liwa Festival, which incorporates 4×4 races up the dune. This 12 months’s occasion is scheduled from November 22 to December 4.

On the way in which again, Almazrouei parks the buggy on a dune above the Liwa Nights camp. Here, poking out of the sand, is one in every of a number of big bladders that are frequently full of water to provide the tents. It’s trucked in as domestically sourced H2O is manner too salty.

This is likely one of the few indicators of human impression on the encompassing surroundings, which Almazrouei is raring to protect. Before constructing the camp, he says he employed 60 folks to work for 2 weeks to take away piles of trash left on the positioning by folks tenting for earlier Liwa festivals.

He’s presently putting in ranks of photo voltaic panels with the intention of creating it 100% reliant on sustainable power. And, he says, he is put in greater than 700 palm timber in the previous 12 months as a part of an ongoing planting program so as to add shade and encourage wildlife in the world.

And whereas authorities officers who collaborated with him establishing the camp had been, he says, encouraging him so as to add 10 or 20 tents to the ten he presently rents out for about US$750 an evening, he prefers to maintain it small — evidently not in it to make critical cash.

“We want to make it authentic and romantic and keep it as a place to come and switch off for a few days,” he says.

Amy Zhao, a US-based engineer lately on task in Abu Dhabi, is amongst these who have sampled Almazrouei’s hospitality at Liwa Nights — and loved a barely much less stress-free trip in his dune buggy.

“I really like it,” she says. “It’s an exciting and unique experience. The tents were amazing.”

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