Glamping: Dubai's new take on desert camping

Glamping allows visitors to enjoy the tradition of desert camping without compromising on comfort and style

Just over 100km from Dubai's skyscrapers, Mr Mohammed al-Kaabi strolls through the tranquil desert with his friends as the sun sets.

The 27-year-old hails from a long line of Emiratis, a people with a centuries-old Bedouin history tied inextricably to the local desert.

Today, he is among a fast-growing group drawn to a new wave of the traditional of desert camping but with all the trappings of comfort, style and modernity.

With glamping - short for glamorous camping - Dubai aims to expand on its renown for luxurious city living and its tradition of camping.

Betting on tourism at a time of low oil prices, Dubai is now offering stays in chic desert trailers, plush mountainside lodgings and beach camps, as it seeks to put its own mark on the glamping trend that has swept world tourism destinations.

"This place is far from the cities and the high-rises," said Mr Kaabi.


"Camping is popular in the UAE, but when you want to take the family, it becomes complicated," he added, at a campsite in Hatta, near the Omani border.

"But here, safety and comfort are provided for."

Camping is still a beloved way of life for many Emiratis, who take their equipment and head to the desert from the fall months onwards, when the scorching summer heat has faded.

Tourists and expat residents also increasingly opt to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Dubai welcomed a record 15.9 million visitors last year, many of whom were drawn to its mega malls, luxurious hotels and pristine beaches.

It hopes to push the figure up to 20 million visitors annually by next year, when it hosts the six-month global trade fair, Expo 2020.

The mountainous eastern Hatta desert has lots to offer glampers with a taste for adventure but also for their home comforts.

Near the Hatta dam, campers have a choice among a trailer, caravan or five-star lodge fully equipped with TVs and power points.

Seated outside a trailer, Mr Jamil Fahmy, a Dubai resident from Saudi Arabia, said glamping was the perfect way to escape the city without compromising on hygiene.

"It is fun, with the fire and hanging with friends and all that, but I personally prefer to sleep in a room with a bed and a private bathroom, and that is what we get here," he said.

"It is great to be an adventurer and explore and cook fireside, and that was what we did.

"But when the time came, we retreated into the beautiful room and slept on a bed."

Rooms with modern amenities, including bathrooms and beds, start from 400 dirhams (S$147) a night at the Hatta site, which opened last October.

The Hatta camping project, part of Dubai's plan to use tourism to diversify revenues, is also home to a 350m zip wire. - AFP