Passion for photography and the desert and a fantastic story told in front of a fire!

I use to go running in the desert. Both for training and competitions This time, I decided to go to Al Qudra to test some gear I received. After parking my car at the Last Exit, I started running crossing through the desert along the cycling path.

Almost 30 minutes after the sunset, I could see not too far from me a 4×4 on the top of a dune. A man was alone up there near to the car, lighting a fire. Intrigued, I kept on going in that direction, till I reached him and incredibly he was Italian too! Two Italians, and a strange meeting in the desert of Dubai. He offered me some water, we started talking and he told me he never drove a 4×4 before moving to the UAE so I grabbed hold of the opportunity and proposed that interview him… and here we are!

Nico de Corato (NdC): Luca, who are you and why you are here alone in the middle of the desert?
Luca Lombardi (LL): Born in Rome, I moved to Sanremo [Liguria, Italy] where I lived for 20 years and where all my friends still live. I’m a professional photographer and I’m here in the UAE because I love the desert.

NdC: How did you discover the desert?
LL: I saw the desert for the first time on Oct. 6th 2013, while landing in Dubai, a city I fell in love with immediately and I decided to move here after a year only. At the beginning it was not easy at all; very few customers, a little money in my pocket, and I could not even imagine buying a car. At first, the only way I had to see the desert was from a window while going to Oman for my Visa Run or during a Desert Safari (a tourist attraction I didn’t like at all) purchased on Groupon. But after I saw the desert first time, a new passion was born inside me.

NdC: Then what happened?
LL: After many sacrifices, I changed my
financial situation and in January 2016 I could go into a car-dealership to buy my favourite 4×4!

NdC: How did you learn to drive on the sand? Did you attend a course or something?
LL: I spent lots of time watching tutorials about dune bashing on YouTube. Almost 2 months after purchasing my car, I decided to go into the desert with a friend of mine (Michele) who was here for a quick vacation. We headed towards Al Awir and there, for the first time, I could experience the desert as a driver. It was something terrific like entering in a new world! A surreal feeling, a mix of floating and slipping into a totally strange but comfortable and pleasantly soft environment. Obviously for the first few months, my desert trips were limited to excursions on the tracks leading to the farms, I did not dare to face dunes higher than a meter!
After 9 months, on September 22nd there was a turning point. I joined an offroaders club and I conceived a new project, named Luca Goes Offroad and started with a new Instagram account to post my weekly offroad adventures. I wanted to do something different and far from normal, with a series of funny videos. The idea behind each video was simple: Driving my friends, as passengers, out of their comfort zones and challenging them with an extreme dune bashing experience and video recording their feelings during the trip.

NdC: So you created a successful format?
LL: Exactly! My most famous video is called “Photo shooting while dune bashing!”, backstage of a photo shooting with Ginevra, a dear friend of mine and a beautiful model, who accepted the idea of a professional photo shoot during a desert trip. This shoot was supported by a professional studio; Niccolò was the light engineer who gave me a big hand in arranging the perfect light setup in my car.
During another funny video Sami, an Italian pastry chef, tried to prepare a cake while dune bashing… you can imagine the final result. But we can say I enjoyed every single video I have worked on till now.

NdC: Any other photo/video projects related to your excursions?
LL: In the latest videos I use my drone for pictures and videos in order to give a different perspective and also to create more picturesque images and to expand the concept of “Luca / Desert”.

NdC: Which is your favourite desert place in the UAE?
LL: I’ve several locations I love driving to:
Sweihan, for example; a town in the region of Al Ain, but on the border of three cities: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. It is noted for its surrounding farms, thanks to which you can see an abundance of camels and Emiratis training with their falcons. It’s characterized by big dunes and soft sands, as a matter of fact it is known as “Little Liwa”, being the practising ground of Liwa enthusiasts. You can find there also Naqrah, a sand dune located deep in the Sweihan desert, which needs to be tried at least once by dune bashing buffs.

Also the trip from Al Wagan to Um Al Oush, with its starfish dunes is a must. There you can face all types of situations: small technical dunes, extremely soft sand, sharp crests, side crests, high speed flat areas… and the highlight of this drive: huge, perfectly shaped, round bowls where you can perform 360 degrees driving on the walls of the bowls themselves.
I’ve been in Liwa, but I didn’t face the deep desert yet. I need to improve my car and get more confident with it. I also love some places in Oman: The Sink Hole
in Bimmah and Wadi Shab for example.

NdC: Any suggestion / tips for people
willing to experience offroad driving and or photography?
LL: Do not hesitate. Defy your limits. Break the rules. Try it! Of course never forget to be safe. Never go alone into the desert. I’m sure when you are there, you will find the right inspiration to take some fantastic
pictures as well. No matter if you are a professional photographer or you are just taking pictures using your smartphone. The desert will drive you…

NdC: Luca thanks a lot for your time. I hope to join you during one of the next trip.

Keep on Going into the Desert (in safety)!

Words by: Nico de Corato
Photos by: Luca Lombardi