Between Christmas and New Year, we drove on a little camping trip towards Wadi Sidr and Wadi Sana. We have been driving around there on several occasions; visiting Friday Market in Fujairah and snorkelling in Dibba. So far we had never reached the mountains, which we knew would offer the most wonderful view.
We recently change our car from a Land Rover LR3 to a Ford Explorer XLT. It was time to test the “new” car and see its capabilities in the rocky area. Since this was the first proper overnight camping for the season, it took a bit longer to load the car. Even most of the things as cutleries and plates were all in their place (in a plastic container), it took a while to locate our sleeping bags and warm clothing.
Spending unusual long time packing and preparing, was away from our valuable camping and off road time. We realised a shortening of the original three-day trip was necessary and ended up with a two-day trip. I am blaming jet lag as the reason for my slow motions. We had just returned from Florida and I could not get myself into Dubai time as hard as I tried.
Finally, we managed to get everything with us into the car and started our drive towards The East Coast which is about 150km away. (Our roundtrip was exactly 333km long).
From Dubai, we drove on E311 (MBZ) and E55 through Sharjah and continued towards Al Dhaid. Once we reached Al Dhaid the route continued on the main road towards Masafi and Fujairah. Shortly after that there was an option to use a smaller local road between the dunes towards Dibba. For us it was a nice change of scenery as we were pretty sure we would meet camels along the road and kids would enjoy it more than a busy road with trucks (E18).
Once we connected back to E18, it was soon time to turn off it again and head towards Al Ghail, where the road was still pavement. After Al Ghail, there was only a gravel road. When reading a map, it often looks like a “short trip”, only few kilometers – but in reality, a serpentine gravel road takes a long time. Much longer than you think with an average speed of 5 -10km/h. Therefore, always good to consider and count backwards how much time you have left before the sun is setting- you do not want to set up a tent in darkness, especially with hungry kids.
We were driving slowly towards the planned camping site (a plateau between Wadi Sidr and Wadi Sana) and enjoying the scenery. We met a few donkeys and many goats as well. At some points, the landscape was so green that you could tell there was lots of groundwater in the area.
Wadi Sidr anyhow was still completely dry as there has been no rainfall yet for the season.
The village of Wadi Sidr had a small but well equipped grocery store, we needed to stock up on our coffee powder provisions and had a break to stretch our legs. Outside the grocery store a local guy with his family stopped his car and approached us friendly: “Welcome to my village! Can I help you with something?” I was looking at the family and smiling back at them. This moment reminded me about the Middle Eastern hospitality that I had felt from the very beginning of my first travels around the region. I greeted the man and the family with my (poor) Arabic and asked if any of the wadis would have water. They told me that a Wadi Asimah, 7km away would have water.
Since it was 3pm in the afternoon, we decided not to take the risk to make a U-turn which could cost us being late with the camp setting.
Later on, it seemed to be the right decision as the roads became steeper and steeper towards the plateau which in turn reduced the speed.
Once we reached the plateau, the view was astonishing. It only got better the more the sun got lower and shadows started giving the mountains many new forms. We set our tent as quickly as we could and kids were happy to assist. After the tent was up, it was time to go for a little hike in the mountains and admire the view towards Dibba.
Kids loved the challenges to climb and us parents were speechlessly following them and pleased that they appreciated the “nature’s own playground”. The wind was blowing; the sun was setting and our campsite looked very tiny from the top of the hill.
Our evening was calm and relaxing with good simple food; some left over from the day before heated up again and some vegetables added on using our smaller camping stove. One thing we had forgotten though: a proper lighter!
We had a small lighter with us, but as it was a windy evening, that lighter and somewhat damp firewood (that we had just bought from Al Dhaid) were not the best combination. Luckily there was some old dry firewood in our canvas bag, so finally we got a comfy campfire. Next time we have to add one more thing to our “bring along list”; a board game. It starts to feel like we have big enough kids that both are able to concentrate and play. Evenings can feel long after the dark, if nothing to do.
This time the evening was disconnection from the digital world the best possible way – no data or even mobile phone connection in that part of the plateau where we were staying.
The wind kept blowing during the night, sometimes I was not sure if I was sleeping on a sailing boat or in a tent, the noise from outside was the same.
Next morning as the sun was rising it felt immediately warmer than I had expected it to be. Usually I keep my winter coat or woollen cardigan on for many hours, but this time it was too hot. We enjoyed our breakfast outside and followed many little birds flying over us and some even curious enough to land next to us.
As the temperature rose, we packed up our tent and drove on deep twisting gravel downhill through Sana village towards Masafi.
Once in Masafi we made a mandatory stop by the market and I bought a huge tray for us. So many kitschy things for sale! I had to remind myself that since I did not really need anything more, I was only allowed to look.
After Masafi we continued on E88 towards Maleiha along the E55.
Maleiha is an area in Sharjah which has an archaeological site called Mleiha. We visited Mleiha in May last year and spent a long day in the area with a guide showing us tombs and telling us about the history of the Bedouin culture in the area, our oldest daughter loved hearing these stories.
The cafeteria in the museum is worth mentioning; organic and tasty products served in settings which are hard to believe are in a museum. Danish design chairs and tables right there where you would never expect to see them.
Unfortunately, we did not stop in the area this time since our three-year-old is having some issues about behaving well these days (deep sigh). I did not want to have to fight with her since she had enjoyed so much the outdoors and was having a good time. I was afraid that if I would take her in to the museum, she would just run around and none of us would enjoy- even Mleiha is very child friendly, I do not want to spoil others experiences.
We stopped at Big Red E44 (Hatta Road) instead. I really do not know why did, why we wanted to do that since none of us enjoy the noise of quad bikes or seeing the insane driving of juveniles bashing in the dunes (sorry, not only juveniles). It was anyhow a bit amusing to see how against all the good driving manners people behave in the area.
Our kids were busy playing with their sand toys in the red sand and we enjoyed our Trangia heated powder coffee with somewhat tasteless muffins that we had bought from mini marked in Masafi. While I was sipping my coffee, I reminded my husband by asking: “Do you remember how it was five years ago when we moved here, we also wanted to buy a quad bike or two. What happened, did we become adults so sudden?”
Kindly note: Always carry a map and or off-road guide book with you on this type of trip. My notes are not enough for you to find to the camping site if you are not familiar with the area. It is a good guidance what to expect, but not sufficient. Our car does not have a GPS, in addition to Google Maps we have downloaded an app called maps me to avoid unnecessary detours.