Since OutdoorUAE’s also dedicated to off-roading, I thought I could ask the question – what exactly is off-roading?

Off-roading: Is it a group of experienced enthusiasts, zooming up dunes at top speed, side sloping and holding on to line until turning down to safety at the last minute? Yes, of course, that’s off-roading; not everyone has an appetite for adrenaline but for those who do, then there are many areas in the UAE to practice their hobby. To follow them you will likely want to make some suspension and possibly power upgrades to your car; every month OutdoorUAE features one or two enthusiasts in their Off-roaders Corner, and this is a great place to pick up tips and ideas for vehicle modification.

Off-roading: Could it also be a group of city-based families who load their camping gear in their 4x4s and head off to Liwa for the weekend? Yes, that too comes under the heading of off-roading. Their aim is to navigate easy dunes until they find the perfect quiet campsite; driving is a big part of their trip but it’s not their only goal; their aim is to have family fun in the desert. Campfire, sand sledges and glow sticks under a canopy of a million stars. If you check out OutdoorUAE’s routes section you will see a few easy routes to download and you will also find my latest one, the Hameem Loop, in this magazine.

Off-roading: Perhaps there are some friends heading over the border to Oman at weekends in search of wadis to “bash” – another flavour of off-roading. If they are super-serious, they might have 4-inch lift kits, very strong tyres, and a pair of working gloves to wear when they have to move big boulders out of the way! There are however, a multitude of wadis which offer family friendly driving in standard 4×4 cars, one of which is Wadi Hawqayn – you can find this route on our website and described in OutdoorUAE September/October 2017 (Oman Wadi Wanderings). Remember to keep out of the wadis when rain is forecast as the resultant flash floods will sweep away everything in their paths.

Off-roading: Speaking of Oman, there are lots of 4×4 owners who head to the mountains there (and also in the Northern Emirates) in spring/summer/autumn, in search of cooler air and a chance to camp when the Gulf region is at its hottest. This too is off-roading. Like wadi enthusiasts, mountain drivers will likely have cars with tyres with strong sidewalls; roof tents are popular too – nobody likes to pitch their tent on rocky ground! My favourite mountain in Oman is Jebel Akhdar; having visited it around 20 times I shared some places to off-road and camp in last month’s OutdoorUAE and these could be great starter points for your first visit.

Off-roading: You will find me at my happiest leading a group on a long overland trip; minimum 100kms but sometimes up to 600! The idea is to move from waypoint to waypoint, crossing a variety of terrains, staying off-road whenever possible and dealing with whatever I encounter in between. Like me, over landers get their kicks from travelling for days through the most remote of areas, before arriving at their intended destination. Elaborate preparations are required when going “off the grid.” I carry a satellite phone, give friends my route (and check in with them when I am safely back on the road), extra fuel, food, water – the aim is always to not require outside assistance!

Oman in particular offers a lot of scope for long distance routes and you can check out some great ones, as well as advice on pre-trip preparation, in Mike Nott’s book “Advanced Offroad Adventure Routes UAE & Oman”, which is available through OutdoorUAE’s website. Please check the book’s Facebook page for route updates before you go.

All the groups described above, when asked at work or school on a Sunday morning “what did you do at the weekend” will have the same reply – we went off-roading! None of the trip types are better or worse than the other, it’s all down to personal preference, your vehicle capabilities and your family situation. How lucky we all are in the UAE to have such wonderful areas easily accessible at the weekend! No matter how you off-road, I wish you safe journeys and wonderful memories! ■

Written by: Marina Bruce
Photos: Marina Bruce, Robert Haandrikman, Dan Watanabe, Murray Kinnaird

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this article was published in OutdoorUAE printed magazine issue #93 February – March 2019

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