Exploring the Majestic Deserts of UAE: A Journey Through Sand and Culture (2024)
Welcome to the United Arab Emirates, an enchanting world of vast and beautiful ‘Deserts.’ The UAE Deserts are an integral part of the nation’s identity and allure. Approximately 80% of the UAE comprises Deserts, especially in the western regions. Deserts aren’t just landscapes but the cultural landmarks that define the history and future of UAE. Known for their undisputed beauty and endless adventure possibilities, the Deserts in the United Arab Emirates are a part of its tourism and recreational identity.
Exploring the Majestic Deserts of UAE
Deserts play an important role in attracting tourists to the UAE from near and far corners of the world. They are, in fact, a major part of the tourism infrastructure of the UAE. So, what are you waiting for? Discover the captivating beauty of UAE’s ‘Deserts’ with this article. Here are the 4 Famous Deserts in the UAE that you must check out.
1. Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter)
The Rub’ al Khali in the UAE is the largest continuous sand desert in the world. Also known as the Great Sandy Desert and the Empty Quater, it spans approximately 250,000 square miles. The Rub’ al Khali is known for its strategic significance that allows the storage of substantial reserves of oil and natural gas beneath its seemingly endless sands. Due to the towering dunes within this colossal landscape, human navigation becomes near-impossible besides a few sections.
Rub al Khali is known for its daunting and inhospitable terrain, all thanks to the arid landscapes of the desert. It is one of the driest and least explored regions globally and, thus, an uninterrupted sand mass. Its vastness contributes to its virtual uninhabited state.
Rub’ al Khali in the UAE hosted shallow lakes around 2,000 to 6,000 years ago. The area is still rich in culture, history, and folklore stories. How to explore? Although much of Rub’ al Khali is unexplorable, there are a few sections you can check out. If you are seeking to explore this otherworldly landscape, accommodations like the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara and Tilal Liwa Hotel offer a luxurious gateway. Additionally, check out the legendary Tel Moreeb, one of the world’s largest sand dunes, for an otherworld experience. However, due to its vastness and undisputed landscape, roaming around without a guide is not recommended.
2. Al Khatim Desert
Nestled between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi, the Al Khatim Desert is an expansive desert. This sandy haven hosts day trips from Abu Dhabi and is nearly 80 kilometers from the city. Al Khatim Desert is known for its untouched towering dunes, which makes it a popular location for desert safari enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The desert is positioned close to the E22 Al Ain highway and thus offers an easy gateway to thrilling activities such as off-road driving, dune bashing, and sandboarding.
The sand dunes at Al Khatim Desert are challenging, and thus, for first-time drivers, it can be a bit demanding. However, for those seeking an adrenaline rush, navigating here can be exhilarating. Many local tour operators from Abu Dhabi host 4×4 Desert Safari tours here, offering an ideal introduction to off-road riding experiences.
However, Al Khatim’s charm and allure extend beyond adventure. The desert also manages to captivate with its stunning and tranquil ambiance. The rolling landscapes and the vast openness of the desert justify the beauty. Beyond operating as a playground for thrill-seekers, Al Khatim Desert in the UAE also operates as a cultural and entertainment hub. Recreational opportunities here extend in the form of Arabic barbecue dinners, yolo dance sessions, DJ music, and shisha.
3. Al Marmoom Desert
Nestled in the vast desert expanse of Saih Al Salam in Dubai, the Al Marmoom Desert defines the beauty of UAE Deserts. This unfenced nature conservation reserve is a must-visit for every outdoor enthusiast. The Al Marmoom Desert covers approximately 10% of Dubai’s total land area, including the remarkable man-made desert wetlands known as Al Qudra Lakes. It isn’t an untouched desert expanse but one that is beautified with human efforts.
The Al Marmoom Desert is known for hosting the authentic Emirati lifestyle. As you explore this landscape, you can experience breathtaking desert sunset, a unique adventure beyond Dubai’s iconic skyline. Or cycling enthusiasts can enjoy a short drive from Dubai leading right towards the Al Qudra cycling path, an 86km track cutting through the sandy terrain.
Individuals interested in exploring the local traditions can book the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience. Tours like these offer insights into Emirati culture and history. Not only that, but the Al Marmoom Desert also teems with natural inhabitants, including oryx, gazelles, camels, and a variety of birds. Or enjoy the traditional Emirati sport of camel racing and enjoy a picnic by the calming waters of Al Qudra Lake. If that’s not enough, venture deep into the desert and observe thousands of stars illuminating the night sky.
4. Liwa Desert
Last on our list is the Liwa Desert, a vast oasis of sand that hosts history and natural wonders altogether. This Desert in the UAE is nestled in the western region of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, encompassing 39 populated places within its oasis boundaries. The desert also holds high significance as the birthplace of the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The Liwa Oasis is a part of the vast Rub’ Al Khali desert, situated on its east. Steeped in cinematic history, it served as the backdrop for iconic films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Sonic the Hedgehog. Not only that, but it also played an important role by representing the planet Arrakis in the 2021 film Dune. So, if these movies impress you, the Liwa Desert will host you beautifully with more options.
Stretching over 100 kilometers in an east–west arc, the Liwa Desert is a crescent-shaped haven. It is home to the world’s largest sand dunes, including the majestic Moreeb Dune, towering over 250 meters high. This nature wonder is also a vital part of the UAE’s rural culture, serving as a significant farming and pasture production region. Activities like sandboarding, dune bashing, and camel riding are quite popular here.
UAE Desert Facts
- UAE is home to several Deserts within its border, but there are four major including Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter), Al Khatim Desert, Al Marmoom Desert, and Liwa Desert.
- The Rub’ al Khali, aka Empty Quarter in the UAE, is the largest continuous sand desert in the world. The Rub’ al Khali occupies a huge portion of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Besides being a landmark of natural wonders, Deserts in the UAE also boast a rich cultural heritage. The deserts here are dotted with historic forts, ancient trade routes, and Bedouin traditions.
- Despite the hot and dry climate, the Deserts in the UAE hide lush pockets of greenery, offering a heaven for wildlife and enthusiasts. Surprising, UAE Deserts aren’t deprived of plant life and are home to a variety of resilient flora.
- Temperature in UAE’s Deserts is extreme, with daytime soaring to scorching heat and nighttime dropping to freezing cold.
- The Deserts in the UAE is home to a wealth of paleontological treasures. Discoveries of fossils of ancient marine life reveal the fact that this area was once covered by oceans.
- Due to minimal light pollution, UAE’s Desert skies are known for stunning celestial displays.
- The modern and rapidly growing cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have emerged from vast dunes.