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Participants passing camels at the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive Tilal Swaihan Experience on Friday 17 January 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Image Credit:

Fun and adventure were at the forefront as participants of the 39th edition of the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive saw more than 800 cars venture into the desert sands in Tilal Swaihan, Al Ain.

The overnighter, which was held on January 17-18, was an exciting time for newcomers and experienced individuals alike.

Participant Khaled Mohamed Sayed said the drive had been perfect for his first time, especially since the conditions were conducive to a good drive without get stuck during the drive.

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Participants having a great time at the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive Tilal Swaihan Experience on Friday 17 January 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“It’s really good for my first time. I enjoyed it immensely and will certainly come again,” Sayed said.

Indian national Roopesh Punjabi, who’s been on the Fun Drive on a few occasions, called the event a “carnival” and it was the “fun” that kept bringing him back year after year.

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Participants having a great time at the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive Tilal Swaihan Experience on Friday 17 January 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“It was fun for the family and being in a group makes it interesting,” he said. “This was our first time in Sweihan and we were looking forward to exploring this area.”

Indira Yadev also said that she was a regular Fun Drive participant, who was joined by her mother and her younger brother at this year’s edition, which was found quite impressive looking at the number of activities and the pleasant ambience of the Tilal Swaihan campsite.

“The drive was amazing. It gives us a really good feel of adventure and it’s been a really good experience on this desert,” Yadev said. “My favourite part was the drive itself, and as the title says, the drive is actually fun. The experiences was a learning curve and there were many people to help us out when we got stuck.”

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Participants going through ghaf trees at the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive Tilal Swaihan Experience on Friday 17 January 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Nadzia Khan said that this was her fourth Fun Drive with her family, and while she enjoyed the drive, Khan said she preferred the Liwa experience over Swaihan simply because they got lost in the desert.

“It was an experience getting lost last year, but we were able to use the app to call a marshal and they helped us out,” Khan said.

The Fun Drive tracker application created by Gulf News allows marshals to keep track of each driver and check if they are in need of any help. The app requires mobile data to work but it consumes a small amount and is available on the App Store and Google Play. It only works during the event.

Khan added that she was eager to participate again next year.

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Former Gulf News employee embarks on her first Fun Drive

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For Shankari Subramanium, the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive was a revelation of sorts as a first-timer.

The former Gulf News employee, who worked at the organisation for more than 19 years, decided it was finally time to tick off the Fun Drive experience from her bucketlist.

“I have worked at Gulf News close to 20 years and I just couldn’t believe I never went on the Fun Drive up until now,” Subramanium told tabloid! “My son has been twice before and this year I decided to join the family, including my two grandchildren who came along for the ride.”

Subramanium was all praises for the organising and the marshals who were on hand every step of the way on the 139-km long route.

“It was nearly impossible to get lost on the drive because of the signage that was peppered along the track nearly every 100 metres. And then there were the marshals. Our car got stuck four times and they were always around to help with such patience and dedication,” she said.

The housewife was also all praise for the buffet spread that served as a welcoming committee for participants. “After a long desert drive, nothing is more welcoming than coming to a hot meal and we were served a feast at breakfast and dinner.”

— Marika Sequeira is an intern with Gulf News