Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Little Bit of the "Real" Abu Dhabi

This weekend some of us decided to break away from the city and go exploring around the Empty Quarter (the western desert region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi). We found our way to the Liwa Oasis and ended up camping in some of the biggest sand dunes in the world for a night. Here is a map to show where we were in relation to the city of Abu Dhabi (we were pretty much right where the yellow box that says Liwa Oasis is located):

Unfortunately we weren't able to leave the city until after 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, mostly because yours truly wasn't watching the time while he was BBQing on the roof for a late lunch. Therefore, we didn't reach Liwa until after sundown. As we were driving up and down the winding road that lead through the dunes, we were completely oblivious to the natural beauty that surrounded us (it was pretty much pitch black out there). We picked what turned out to be a great spot to set up camp, about 100 feet up the side of a sand dune in a nice little flat spot. By the time we got to this spot, it was already close to 8:00 at night. Luckily we had a nice, bright lantern and used it to help us see as we set up our tent for the night. After that, we just wandered around the giant dunes in the dark for a long time, stopping frequently to lay down on the sand and stare up at the big night sky. Since there was absolutely no light pollution to interfere with our view, we could see all the constellations perfectly. This was probably the best part of the whole experience. After a few hours of exploring, we found our way back to our campsite, we munched on some snacks, threw back a few cold ones, and just talked for a few more hours.
Probably the worst part of the whole trip was trying to sleep. There were five of us crammed into 1 tent (we were too lazy to put up both tents), and only 1 of us remembered to bring a pillow. That left Jeff, Mike, and I sleeping on our backpacks (mine might as well have been a sack of bricks). The ground was not too comfortable either. Therefore, by the time the desert sun came blaring through the sides of the tent, none of us had gotten more than 3 or 4 hours of sub-par sleep.
Nonetheless, getting up wasn't too painful because, for the first time since we'd arrived in the dunes, we were able to enjoy the natural beauty of our surroundings. Here are a few pictures I took when I woke up in the morning:
Walking up the sand dune to our campsite from the car (doesn't really capture the elevation at all).

Our campsite. You can see some of the sand dunes across the road. That is our car on the right side to give you some perspective on how high we are from the road (and the dunes behind me go much, much higher!).

The 2 1/2 hour drive home through the desert was pretty rough for me because I was tired and sore and everybody else was sleeping. But the scenery was also a nice change from what I'm used to seeing so I tried to enjoy it as much as I could.
Overall, I'd say that everybody had a great time camping and I think all of us are looking forward to doing it again soon!


  1. Another wonderful adventure. I think it might be fun to camp when we come to see you, but I would definitely need a pillow! Do you see bugs, snakes, etc. in the desert? I am happy that you so appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. Dad and I cannot wait to share some of this with you! Less than 40 days now! We will plan to talk to you on Christmas Eve. As soon as I know more definitely what our plans will be, I will E-mail you with some times. Take care and be good--Santa is watching!

    Lots of love,

  2. OOOH! Did you get attacked by scorpions?!