Where to camp
the most common question is ‘where’ but there is no short answer to it. So if you don’t see a sign that camping is prohibited and you did not cross a closed fence or gate, you are good to go and pitch your tent. Often you pass fence lines which should keep camels away from the highway, passing these fences is no problem. You should really not worry but in case some local residents would approach you (never happen to me in 12 years) you should respect the request and leave. It is much more likely that locals in the desert will rather give you some company or invite you for a tea.
Al Qudra, Showka, Mleiha, Liwa are all popular camping areas to help you find a place to go camping for the first time.
The best time is from October till December and from March till May. In January and February you should prepare for cold nights. The summer months are very hot during the day but nights can be quite pleasant.
Here it comes down to preferences, you have minimalists who show up with a simple beach mat and sleep under the stars or in their car. Contrary to them are the avid campers who show up with camping trailers and setup a camp site which looks like the base camp for a major exhibition. The common options would be a basic tent. Ventilation is the most important aspect you should look at for in a tent plus a sleeping mat and a blanket or a sleeping bag. Don’t underestimate winters in the UAE temperatures can drop below 10C° which can be very uncomfortable if you are not prepared for it.
The biggest danger is that you get stuck or lost while you are on the hunt for a nice camp site. So make sure you are prepared for a desert drive. Winters can get cold but not that cold that you would die. The summer heat is more dangerous during the hot days and you should make sure you have sufficient sun protection and fluids with you at all times. There are snakes, scorpions and camel spiders in the desert but unless you step on them they will do you no harm. If this concerns you wear shoes at all times. Snakes are very rare to find and camel spiders are big but also not a common sight, scorpions are easier to spot especially if you use a UV light torch. In more than a decade here I have not seen or heard of any incident of someone getting bitten.
The best way to get familiar with camping in the desert and overcome the initial entry barriers is to go with other campers. You will quickly pick up some tips and enjoy the silence of the desert. We have also some videos with camping tips on our YouTube channel or on the Columbia Academy website.