Abu Dhabi: The 35th Gulf News Fun Drive was a huge hit all around as 2,500 people drove through the Liwa desert for 240km on Friday.
The event would not have been possible without the support of a long list of sponsors, most of whom were off-road enthusiasts themselves and participated in the event.
Ahmed Ali, marketing operations manager at Al Futtaim Motors (Toyota), the main sponsor of the event for the last 28 years, has participated in the event since 2006. “This is the fun part of the job,” he said.
This year he was accompanied by members of Toyota’s management team from Japan, who had come to the UAE specially to take part in the Fun Drive and experience driving the latest Land Cruiser in the desert.
Al Futtaim Motors (Toyota) deployed six brand new 2016 Land Cruisers for the event that were used by the Lead Car and marshals. The lucky drivers of the brand new cars were observed thoroughly enjoying testing the car as they led people through the 240km route in the desert and assisting them when they were stuck in the sand. They were also an essential contributor to the goody bags that were distributed to each participant.
The participating cars were identified by individual sticker numbers that were sponsored by Amity University.
Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Middle East, also took part in the event and said he thoroughly enjoyed the Fun Drive and hopes to take part again next year. “It is a high-energy exciting event and it brings together people from very different backgrounds and they all come together and have fun together. That’s what the UAE is all about and we are very happy to be part of the sponsor team,” he said.
Over 2,500 hungry participants arrived at the overnight campsite and rushed to the dinner tent for a sumptuous dinner followed by a 100kg cake, which were provided by JA Resorts & Hotels.
Ralph Hays, corporate director of hospitality and events, said although they have participated in many previous Fun Drives, the 2016 event was particularly challenging for them due to its location in Liwa.
Hays confirmed they started planning two weeks ahead to ensure service ran smoothly and the quality of food was top notch. They dedicated 40 chefs, 90 staff and four 40-foot trailer trucks to transport the food and equipment to Liwa.
He said although it is a very tough event for his staff to execute due to its long hours, it is surprisingly one that most staff request to be a part of, which he thinks is one of the reasons behind the popularity of the food — a lot of love goes into it. “We have a fantastic team, really proud of them,” he said.
While breakfast and dinner were a huge success with participants, the coffee corner was a rather popular one. Delonghi, the world’s biggest manufacturer of coffee machines, had brought their ‘Bean To Cup’ automatic machines to the campsite and were causing a stir with their freshly brewed coffee.
Mark Broad, Delonghi developing manager, and two of his colleagues could be seen greeting people and pouring the coffees themselves at the tent. Broad could not find a promoter in Dubai who would travel to Liwa so they decided to do it themselves, an experience he said he thoroughly enjoyed and would do again next year as seeing people’s satisfaction was very gratifying.