A trip to the UAE is not complete without a night in the desert. Liwa Oasis, located about 3 1/2 hours away from Dubai, serves as an impressive escape from city life as well as a fascinating introduction to Bedouin heritage. Sitting at the edge of the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, the Oasis offers phenomenal views of the sprawling dunes and camel herds, as well as a variety of desert activities.
There are a number of accommodation options near Liwa, ranging from luxury hotels to tent camping. The Tilal Liwa Hotel offers relaxing spa services, desert outings and exceptional dining options, while a simple tent allows for world-class stargazing. A word of caution to those who choose to sleep under the stars: beware of dune bashers and ATVs who may have limited visibility as they pass over the dunes!
Daytime excursions to camel farms and races, date farms, and the Moreeb dune are all quite popular. Due to the desert terrain, it is highly advisable to take a 4×4 vehicle or hire a driver. Desert safaris are also common, as they include a full tour of the area and its attractions, as well as equipment for dune bashing and camel riding.
Look out for seasonal events, such as the Liwa Date Festival, which happens in July. As one of the top 10 date producers in the world, the UAE places great importance on this precious commodity, which has grown in the region for thousands of years. In addition to date production, the festival is a celebration of Emirati heritage and society. It features a world-class date competition (with multi-million dirham prizes) as well as cultural exhibitions and performances.
While the “Bedouin lifestyle” is virtually a thing of the past, a trip to Liwa Oasis still provides a glimpse into the UAE’s history and way of life. The desert’s unique ecology and extreme climate make for a fascinating visit that is well worth the drive. With an exciting day on the dunes and a peaceful evening away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, this makes for a perfect weekend getaway.