The months of June to September in the UAE are typically the time that most people retreat to the comfort of their air conditioned homes, perhaps with the occasional trip to the shopping mall, or if they are lucky a holiday to Europe to escape the heat of the UAE!
However, the members of Abu Dhabi 4X4, one of the longest established off-roading clubs in the Middle East (founded in 2006), do not let the high temperatures and humidity of the summer prevent them from doing what they love most! Despite the club’s name being affiliated to Abu Dhabi, they also run many desert trips in Dubai and Sharjah, so there is always an option to suit everyone without having to drive long distances to get there.
Throughout the cooler months of the year Abu Dhabi 4×4 will have on average of 10 trips running every weekend, from the absolute newbie introductory outings, up to the advanced level trips which only experienced drivers are qualified to join. Yet now that the mercury is rising, the Abu Dhabi 4×4 Club Marshals continue to run trips every weekend to satisfy the demand of their sand addicted members and, likewise, to feed their own desert cravings – a testament to the enthusiasm one feels when driving in the desert!
If you should happen to be passing by the Sweihan ADNOC petrol station at 6am on a Friday morning you will see the colourful line up of Abu Dhabi 4X4 vehicles and their owners happily chatting whilst preparing themselves and their vehicles for the drive ahead. During the trips, the convoy will stop for breaks at their favourite Ghaf tree to enjoy the occasional pieces of greenery that dot the landscape and serve as a shaded area perfect for a chit chat and the obligatory feasting on a cool watermelon. These popular morning trips are usually finished by 10:30am which is just in time to elude the real heat of the day. Advice on how to stay comfortable and safe on these trips is posted on the club website regularly (www.ad4x4.com) during the summer months and is reinforced in the pre-trip safety briefings. As a heads up – do not be under any illusions that it won’t be hot out there!
• Your vehicle should be in a robust condition, reliable and regularly serviced – think twice about driving in the desert if your vehicle is showing signs of mechanical issues. And always check your radiator level before setting off as this is a common cause of breakdowns.
• Footwear which covers the entire foot is necessary (no sandals or flip flops) to avoid burning feet in the hot sand. Sand boots are the footwear of choice and can be purchased from the major outdoor retailers.
• Sun hats are recommended to combat the sun burn as well as heat stroke, and are useful to hide the tidal mark on your forehead where the sweat meets the sand!
• Sunglasses are optional as they may diminish the contours and shadows of the sand dunes which can make it more difficult to judge distance and approach angles.
• Water, water, and more water – keep drinking fluids to stay hydrated and always have spare water stored in your vehicle (overheating engines are a common sight in the desert, but an overheating passenger has, even more, cause for concern). Coconut water and oral rehydration sachets are an excellent choice for those who want a bit of flavour and can help replace lost fluids.
• Don’t be afraid to crank up that AC to keep you and your passengers cool, calm and collected
• And most importantly once again, do not forget the water!
Another more exciting way to get your sand fix during these hot months without having to haul yourself out of bed at ridiculous o’clock in the morning is to sign up for one of Abu Dhabi 4X4’s popular night drives. Granted, desert driving in the night may sound daunting, and hence these trips are posted for intermediate ranked drivers or above but they offer an exhilarating way to see the desert from a whole new perspective. You would be surprised at some of the desert creatures that come out after sundown too– if you have the eyes of a meerkat you can catch wild gazelles or a desert fox flying across the sand dune horizon! Indeed, the visibility in the desert at night is greatly reduced, especially if the moon is not full, so the convoy will drive closer together to take advantage of the lights from the other vehicles and most importantly to be close at hand to take photos of anyone who has the bad luck to get stuck in the very soft sand. The canopy of stars you see in the desert is certainly not something you will see when star gazing from the city – another reason to beat the heat of the summer and enjoy the sublime offerings of the desert!
For an entirely different style of driving and a more diverse landscape you might be lucky enough to secure a space on one of the Oman Mountains and Wadi trips which are very popular during the summer, due to the much milder weather conditions at the higher altitudes of the Hajjar mountains and the opportunity to cool off at some of the Wadi pools after a day of off-road exploring. The most recent trip to Oman was over the Eid Al Fitr holiday and was attended by at least 30 Abu Dhabi 4X4 members as well as their families. It was a huge success, with many members who couldn’t attend pleading for more of these trips to be announced. Watch this space!
If you would like to learn how to drive in the desert with the main focus being safety and fun then do not let the temperature put you off. Simply beat the heat with Abu Dhabi 4X4 this summer – your off-roading family is waiting! ■
Words by: Kaylie Thomson