By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny 




For two weeks the 2021 edition of the Dakar rally that ended last Friday has once again been a great show. The TV shots have shown us magnificent images of endless sand dune desert, arid rocky mountain and stunted vegetation, bathed in the unique light of desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia. But it now could be your turn to defy the dunes. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) has prepared six off-road desert routes to reveal your hidden adventurer self.




Prime requirements

Feeling adventurous is not quite enough to take the plunge and preparation is the key word. The six off-road routes have been designed for all levels allowing you to choose one adapted to your abilities. For beginners or experienced drivers, for just a few hours or for several days, with friends or with your family, each route can fit in with your own expectations.




Taking simple precautions is obvious: never go out into the desert alone, make sure your car is fully serviced and insured for off-road use, drive in a convoy of at least four 4-wheel-drive vehicles, have enough water and food, a first-aid kit and a spare tyre.




All of the six routes are geo-localised and following your GPS’ instructions will rule out any risk of getting lost. Even if you are an absolute beginner in off-road driving and dune climbing you can still enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime driving experience by arranging a desert camping adventure with a tour company. Here are 3 companies recommended by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Office:

Capital Gate Tourism
Contact: Joy Sanchez
Mobile: 02 556 5543 or 00 971 56 366 5777

Emirates Tours & Safari LLC
Hotline/WhatsApp: 00 971 50 532 6837

Turning Point Tourism LLC
Contact: Riddhi Lakhani
Mobile: 00 971 50 761 6513





Much more than driving in the desert

If climbing up and down dunes may be your first motivation you will soon find out that Abu Dhabi’s desert has much more to offer. Be also prepared for thrilling experiences. Each of the 6 routes goes through breathtaking landscapes and takes you to interesting spots to visit. Salt pools, unexpected forests, camel farms, unique camping sites, huge dunes (some of them are 250 meter-high!), magical encounter with gazelles… not to forget the unique quality of the clearest night skies you’ve ever seen!




“Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Resort”, a luxury stop on Liwa Crossing Route

If you feel tired of sleeping in a sleeping bag and in need of a luxury oasis in the heart of the desert drive to “Qasr Al Sarab Resort” by Anantara. Deep in the legendary Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, Qasr Al Sarab meaning “The Mirage Palace”, is a unique hotel and an extravagant blend of luxury and Arabian heritage.




The hotel has been built like a fortified village. Whether in the lounges, the restaurants, the bars, the spa or the 206 rooms or suites the decoration was created to absorb the local customs and although the hotel was built only a few years ago it feels like an old desert fortress. With locally hand crafted furnishing. thick carpets, embroidered fabrics, ancient artefacts such as stone statuettes, old wooden doors, all kinds of antique weapons, over-decorated saddles, copper pots, old millstones, leather binding books, impressive wrought iron lanterns… it makes you feel like living in the palace of a sheik’s family who would have collect all these objects over several generations. The food is incredible and the spa will take care of all the stiffness and ache due to your off-road driving!




More about Qasr Al Arab Resort in one of our previous article:

More information about the off-road routes in Abu Dhabi at:


Text ©Annick Dournes

Photos ©Frederic de Poligny and courtesy of Abu Dhabi Culture & Tourism