Back to nature in the Arab world: camping in the UAE mountains

The day started with baking cakes inside oranges and ended with my daughter’s first tooth falling out.

Sunset over Ras Al Khaimah

Living in Dubai, we felt the need to escape the man-made madness where the only views are from the top of a skyscraper, in search of natural views from the top of a mountain; so we were exploring a little closer to home this weekend with an overnight camping trip to the mountains surrounding Ras Al Khaimah.

Following the Wadi Bih road passed a couple of dams we decided to drive up one of the many wadis in search of the perfect, flat, stoneless pitching site. This proved more difficult that you might think in the mountains. The gravelly track wove its way through the valley and not wishing to pitch in the middle of a wadi for fear of flash floods (we haven’t seen rain for nearly a year) we urged the cars along steeper, narrower and stonier paths, until by luck we found the Holy Grail.

The ground was stoneless, flat as an iron and had tremendous views down the valley. It was bordered by a dry stone wall, and at some point someone had painstakingly removed every last pebble. I’m still left wondering what this strange piece of land was originally used for. The wall perhaps indicated livestock, but why remove all the stones? The lack of stones indicated a crop field, but the ground was compact and completely even. I wondered about it being a burial or holy site, but there were no markers at all. The conclusion I have reached is that it was once a spot for Bedouins to pitch their tents, and I hope we respected the land accordingly. As an American Chief once said: “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

Search for the perfect spot

The children loved being able to scramble around, cook marshmallows on an open fire and nestle down into at tented haven at the end of the day. Even with all our mod cons, you can’t beat sitting around a fire sharing stories and a mug of something to keep the chill out. It might be due to the mod cons that we enjoy outdoor life so much, as there is always a comfy bed and warm shower to come home to. We undertook the journey with some friends who love to cook, and hence the breakfast treat of cake cooked in oranges must be repeated.

We ended the trip with a visit to an antique shop and a couple of hours at a waterpark. It was a fun packed couple of days, but when you ask our eldest daughter what her favourite part was, her answer will be: “My tooth fell out.” How do we raise the stakes to make a camping weekend even more exciting?!


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I'm a journalist, public relations and marketing specialist who has a passion for international travel, history and photography. Experiences have included backpacking in South America and the Far East, touring Europe in a camper van, working in villages in Africa, travelling with the British Army in Kenya, Oman and Northern Ireland, working in Saudi Arabia, living in Kuwait, Chicago and the United Arab Emirates.

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