STOCK desert camping
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Dubai: The smell of a campfire, the view of the stars and the amazing weather, are a few reasons why many UAE residents are getting out of the city on the weekends to go camping. But, there’s a lot you need to know before planning a trip out in nature, especially if you want to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Camping is a popular weekend pastime for many in the UAE, with the current cooler temperatures and plenty of beautiful locations a natural draw. But, before going on a camping trip for a weekend getaway with family and friends, it is important to make a check list of all the essentials you may need, as well as ensuring that all the camping equipment meets safety standards. But the to-do-list does not stop there and once you hit base, it is vital to take all the necessary safety precautions to ensure you have a safe camping trip.

What you need to know about weekend camping

According to the Public Health and Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, a number of guidelines concerning camping outdoors are in place to ensure that campers are safe.

These guidelines are there to ensure a safe camping experience give advice on how tents should be set up in safe areas, and how tents and generators are used in a safe manner, and states how to use fires and grills safely.

Image Credit: Supplied

Choosing your site to set up the tent

According to Dubai Municipality, your camp site should not be in low areas such as stream valleys, or next to a cliff, and the tent site should also not be set up at the base of a cliff.

Tents should be set up far away from cooking stations or where wood is burned, and be a safe distance from fuel depots, fuel storage tanks, generators and electricity poles.

The guidelines also state that tents should be in high areas far enough from water tide levels.

Campers are also advised to avoid mud floors which may be infested with scorpions, ants and other insects. Use flat lands that are free of stones and potholes to avoid creating a moist environment in the tent. The guidelines further stress avoiding shallow or semi-marsh areas in which water may appear as a result of a rise in sea-level.

Safety and health guidance related to tent specifications:

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Tents must be set up tightly so as not to fall or fly away in the event of strong winds

Tents should be made from non-flammable and non-absorbent materials that are equipped with the essential ventilation holes to allow proper ventilation.

Tents must be set up tightly so as not to fall or fly away in the event of strong winds, and ropes must be kept in a length that is safe and will not cause people to trip and fall.

Safety and health requirements for generators:

The person responsible for operating the electric generator should have it periodically maintained and use the appropriate adapters, and place the generator properly to avoid leakage of exhaust gases into the tent as a result of the direction of the wind.

If children are present, a safe barrier should be set up to prevent their exposure to the generator and the fuel.

Health and safety instructions relating to fire, grilling, and heating operations:

Firewood must be stored away from the tent by a minimum of 15 feet in normal situations.

The burner stove must be in a safe location compared to the tent; so that the direction of the wind is towards the fireplace and not the tent, and the burner should be surrounded by a barrier, such as sand or stone.

The municipal guidelines also state that burning coal should not be left unattended at night as it can cause a fire hazard.

How to avoid a fire in camps

 - All light sources and lanterns should be kept at least 50 centimetres away from the tent.

- Do not use heated equipment, such as barbeques and coal, inside the tent.

- Ensure a fire extinguisher is available nearby or inside the tent.

- Do not use open flames, such as candles or lighters, inside the tent.

- Firewood must be stored away from the tent by a minimum of 15 feet at any given time.

Other safety instructions

Use a suitable four-wheel-drive car for easy movement and carry all the required maintenance tools to aid you in the event of any damage to the tyres. Above all, learn how to change a tyre before heading out on a camping trip.

Do not drive into valleys when it is raining and always pay attention to the road.

Avoid throwing waste in unhealthy and unsafe ways as it attracts insects and creates an unhealthy environment.

Avoid pouring water in small burrows, which can push scorpions out and other harmful insects, and take precaution when lifting rocks as you do not know what kind of harmful animals or insects may be hidden nearby.

Protect yourself and your neighbors from COVID-19

Limit the capacity in vehicles (maximum 3 people per vehicle, who are unrelated)

Don’t share food, phones, utensils and other commonly shared items.

Use only disposable eating utensils

As much as possible, wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

Use hand sanitizer when possible, rubbing it through fingers – do not wipe it off.

Refrain from touching your nose, mouth or eyes.

Only use your own linens when overnight camping

Maintain a two to three meter distance from everyone else at the campsite.

Camping in UAE
Camping in the UAE Image Credit: istock

Do I need permission before I go camping?

According to Dubai Municipality weekend, campers do not require prior permission to pitch tents in the desert.

There are however certain rules to long-term camping trips. Those who go camping for longer durations are required to pay a fee and obtain permission.

If you are going only for one or two days you do not need permission, but those who stay in the desert for long periods need to get approval.

Make sure you follow the law of the Dubai Municipality regarding provisions regulating the temporary uses of desert land as provided in the Local Order No. 2 of 1999, and the administrative decision No. 310 of 2008.

The camps must be made from “temporary materials” that can be completely dismantled and removed at the end of the permit.

However, those camping for only a few days can continue to pitch tent anywhere in the desert, said Jaber Al Ali, head of the municipality’s inspection section. They don’t need permits and are not liable to pay a security deposit or fees for camping.

Look pre-COVID caravan camping life on Dubai beach
Look pre-COVID caravan camping life on Dubai beach Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai Municipality announced that it will allow camping with caravans on the Jebel Ali beach, subject to obtaining a prior permit for a period of 30 days through the Municipality’s website.

The Municipality confirmed that the permit issuing service is free of cost and only requires to provide a valid copy of the ownership of the caravan or trailer and a copy of the Emirates ID or passport (for visitors).

Dubai Municipality clarified that the beach currently designated for this activity in the emirate is the beach in the Jebel Ali area with Makani number 0001864652. Once the applicant enters the necessary data and documents online, the permit is issued immediately and directly, which allows the holder to camp in the specified location for 30 days.

Things to consider

Be considerate towards others in the region and be wary of venturing out into a private property. Make sure you are not camping on someone else’s private beach or farm and seek prior consent.

Charge your mobile and carry power banks at all times, so you are never disconnected. 999 is the number to call for all kinds of emergencies in the UAE, even for off-road rescue services in any emirate.

Don’t pitch your tents at the base of a dune or anywhere near it. This puts you at risk of getting run over by onrushing off-roaders who may not be aware of what’s going on behind the dune they are climbing.

Ensure car is serviced and in good condition. Also check tyre pressure and fluid levels.

File image used for illustrative purposes: Use a suitable four-wheel-drive car for easy movement and carry all the required maintenance tools to aid you in the event of any damage to the tyres. Above all, learn how to change a tyre before heading out on a camping trip.


Food is such an important part of any camping trip. Nothing tastes better than eating what you made on a campfire.

It’s important to plan your meals ahead of time and bring a lot of stuff that may not be heated like bread rolls or canned foods. Once you’ve planned your meals create an ingredient list. Then, only pack those ingredients. It is best to pack ingredients in reusable containers, rather than disposable plastic.

It is also smart to pre-cook, then reheat once you are at the campsite.

Just remember that when you are storing certain ingredients like meat or dairy. You have to make sure they are kept at the correct temperature in order for it not to get spoiled. The last thing you need is a case of food poisoning in the middle of desert or the wadi.

Taking precautions against fires and carbon monoxide inhalation is also very crucial. People must avoid cooking inside tents as it might cause a fire or carbon monoxide inhalation and subsequent hazards, he said.

Another undesirable practice is keeping raw meats, fruits and vegetables and other cooked foods together, without separating them. Not storing easily perishable foods like raw meat, poultry, fish and egg in an icebox is also a cause for worry, he said.

Suggested ingredients

Salt and pepper as well as any other seasonings.

Sugar or a sweetener

Coffee and tea bags

Powdered creamer: It's a good idea to ensure it is powered, as it doesn’t require refrigeration.

Condiments like ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce

Hot dogs: These are already precooked.

Burger patties: Easy and they take no time at all.


Fresh fruit: Consider bringing fruits like bananas and oranges, as they don't require refrigeration.

Drinking water: Confirm that where you are camping has potable water for your use. If they do, you can bring your own water bottles and fill them on site. If they don't, then bring enough bottled water per person / per day.

Granola bars: Great for snacking and are non-perishable

Marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to make s'mores

NAT 200114 Camping with caravans on Dubai beach-1578996546588
According to Dubai Municipality, your camp site should not be in low areas such as stream valleys, or next to a cliff, and the tent site should also not be set up at the base of a cliff.

Camping equipment


Sheets and sleeping bags

Blow-up mattress and pillows

Firewood, grills and stove top kettle

Camp chairs

Barbecue set and tin foil

Extra batteries

Insect repellent

Charcoal and matches

Tow rope

Rubbish bags

Tissues and wipes

Maps and GPS (when off-roading)

Small shovel

Cool Box and ice

Water- for drinking and washing

Torch or flashlight

Fire extinguisher

First Aid Kit

It is important that your first aid kit has all the necessary items. These include:

Antiseptic spray or wipes for wounds

Latex gloves to be used for any first aid treatment

Tweezers for removing splinters

Band Aids

Paracetamol: It is very important to have a basic pain reliever or fever reducer

Cleaning up after yourself

Respect the UAE's natural beauty by cleaning up as you go along; repackage any leftover food, and bring a stash of trash bags that can be tied to the entrance of your tent in order to throw garbage away. When packing away at the end of your trip, put someone in charge of a final litter sweep.

Since October, 2020, when the outdoor season started in the UAE, Dubai Municipality has begun implementing a comprehensive work program to ensure the cleanliness of desert and mountainous areas in the Emirate.

Since the beginning of the desert trips season, Dubai Municipality commenced the implementation of work program, follow-up and awareness programs in all desert and rural areas, such as Al Qudra Street extension, Al Ruwaiya-3 area, Al-Warsan-2 and 3, Margham Street, tourist locations in Hatta, Al Qudra Lakes, Love Lakes, the area behind defense camp in Al Aweer, Lehbab-2 area, Tripoli Street, Wadi Al Amardi area, Wadi Al Shabak, Emirates Road, Amman Street in Al Khawaneej, Al Tayy area and all other open land areas in the emirate.

Camping in the UAE
Always leave your campsite cleaner than how you found it. Respect that this is a sanctuary and leave it the way it is.

The implementation of the field awareness program has also been started for those visiting the desert areas in Al Ruwaya and Al Qudra Lakes. There will be a regular program for these visitors, and we are trying to use drones in audio awareness operations for the public in hard-to-reach areas and to cover larger areas to optimize the use of this technology in the field of awareness.


1. Bring a large 5 gallon water bottle with a pump, rather than boxes of small water bottles. That's much less trash to worry about.

2. Bring a large trash bag with you, which you can throw everything away into it

3. If you had to change tyres or damaged your bumpers, take them home with you. Any spare tyre left behind, aside from being very unsightly, can also provide a trap for small animals. Rubber tyres will stay there for years. But the high temperature in the desert can cause it to burn and turn into toxic oil.

4. Veer away from unfamiliar tracks or places with natural vegetation. You don't want to destroy untouched spots.

What are the Do’s and Don’ts?

Do bring lots of garbage bags. In addition to cleaning up after yourself, sometimes the bags come in handy for your own things. Dubai Municipality also pointed out that residents who dump their rubbish in the desert and set up fires in public places will be slapped with a Dh500 fine.

Do bring warm clothes. The dessert has a reputation for being ‘a hot place’ it can get very cold enough in the desert cannot only make or break your camping experience, it could also prove to be dangerous if you aren’t bundled up enough.

Don’t go barefoot. Keep your feet warm and covered during your camping trip.

Don't take glass and don’t use glass bottles. Always use reusable containers. Some people take glass and it breaks, and you get shards on the ground.

Do bring a head torch so that when you’re cooking, both your hands are free and you’re less likely to burn yourself.

Do plan where you place your barbecue to avoid any mishaps. Cooking beside the fire might not be the best idea.

Don’t bury the barbecue after you finish cooking right away. The sand can get boiling hot and people often burn themselves from stepping on that area or sitting there. So wait until it has cooled down.

Do bring a lot of firewood. It’s for the ambience, for light and for warmth. But, mainly for ambience because people usually gather around fires. It is a social setting.

Never hunt for animals in the wildlife. It is not allowed and it is a criminal offence to do so. It is also prohibited to remove sand and big trees, but if residents want to take small plants then there is no problem with that.

Always leave your campsite cleaner than how you found it. Respect that this is a sanctuary and leave it the way it is.