There’s never a dull moment at the overnighter campsite

It was a 21st century oasis. It, being the desert campsite for the overnighter participants of the Fun Drive. “It just gets better and better. We asked our relatives to stay on after the shopping festival [DSF] just for this event, because we wanted to have them experience how well- organised the arrangements are,” said Lalit Law, who is participating in his fourth Fun Drive.

He cringes at the mere idea of comparing the event to the typical desert safaris that most tourists go on. “This is completely different. The regular safaris are quite predictable in their routes and arrangements, so if a tourist has the opportunity to go on the Fun Drive with someone, why deprive them of the experience,” he said.

Unlike last year, when there was a giant community tent that most participants slept in, this year the organisers also pitched many small tents, which Law felt was a bit inconvenient as it was hard to determine the number of occupants.

Saeed Abusaleh and his family have been taking part in the overnighter for the past six years and the whole family enjoyed the fireworks during the course of the evening.

“It’s quite nice to see some familiar faces after a year’s gap and spending time with the family, making friends. During the drive one doesn’t get to see who all have made it this year, but the campsite is much more relaxed and far from the city so we’re just taking a long walk around to see if we bump into any known faces,” he said.

Abusaleh was accompanied on the overnighter by his wife, Zainab and children Mohammad and Ameenah. “The fireworks here are quite special as it feels more exclusive and it’s much more beautiful because it’s out in the desert,” said the ladies, while his son preferred the experience of watching people work their way through the sand after getting stuck.

A regular marshal at the Fun Drive, Abdulla C. C., opted to participate without any responsibility this year. A real veteran of the event, he has taken part in more than 20 Fun Drives and recalled the growth from the early efforts when there were only 60 cars.

“Today there are almost 600. Even the camps were much smaller in the early years, but in the last few years they’ve grown in size and become much better in the organisation and facilities offered. Which campsite can one see 95 tables set up in five-star style with so much food offered?” he said.

The desert has its charm, which draws many people, but some overnighters preferred to take part in the Fun Drive just to be a part of the larger community and enjoy the campsite.

Zubair Kayani was on his eighth drive and goes out into the desert only for this event. His was the first car to arrive at the campsite. “I prefer a set-up where everything is organised, as opposed to venturing out on a DIY trip,” he said.

Arrangements and entertainment ensure that people of all ages are taken care of. From the PlayStation 2 tent to the Dewalt stall that was conducting a screwdriver skills contest, families were never bored.

“Even the camels are much prettier out here,” said Polly van Herpen, who watched her son and daughter mount a camel to go on a ride through the campsite. Her family was on their second drive. “We just had such a good time last year that we had to come back again,” she said.