Dubai: The ‘41st Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive – the Tilal Swaihan Experience’ in Al Ain region concluded on a joyous note on Sunday morning after Saturday’s full-day line-up of dune-bashing, live entertainment and dinning.
On Sunday morning, participants made their way to the breakfast spread by 7am at the camp site. While some took a morning walk, a father-son duo rode quad-bikes around the camp site.
Dr Samina Khatib who was at the Fun Drive with her husband said the couple had a fun-filled weekend. “This time the route felt easier to tackle. There were very clear markings. The marshals did a fantastic job directing us to stay on course with the route. It made the whole experience better,” she added.
Emirati Mohammed Al Khamiri and his son Saif also enjoyed the off-road thrills. “It was very well organised. The route was planned very well. My family came down to the Fun Drive and we all had a great time,” he said.
The Al Ain Municipality, which brought its vehicle, MX7 – Panorama for the flag off, hailed the annual Gulf News Fun Drive event. Ahmed Omran Al Ameri, Advisor - Director of Municipal Community Centre, Al Aamerah, said it is the first time that the special Al Ain Municipality vehicle has been taken to a community event.
“This car has been specifically designed to help push tourism in Tilal Al Sweihan. We believe that Gulf News too has been a major driver of tourism for Tilal Al Swaihan. The Gulf News Fun Drive has put Tilal Al Swaihan on the international map and that is why we decided to be part of such a big event,” he added.
Hamed Al Mazroui, Managing Director of International Automobile Touring Club – the official vehicle recovery at the Fun Drive - also commented on how the annual event attracts visitors from all over the world. “I have been part of the Gulf News Fun Drive event since the beginning when it started. That time I did not have a beard, moustache or a wife. Today we continue to support the annual Gulf News event for the amazing family adventure it offers,” he said.
“One time I remember there was one massive participation from Abu Dhabi to Liwa. We had 1,008 registered cars for the Fun Drive. Each car had five passengers. It was not easy to handle. People lost route, or get stuck somewhere. But it ended up being a successful adventure in the end.”
He added: “The Gulf News Fun Drive is a great supporter for tourism in the area. We have seen international participants who fly down just for this event. They would hire a four by four rent-a-car and participate at the event. After it was over, they would leave the car at the rent-a-car and fly back to where they came from. Such is a the presence of the Gulf News Fun Drive.”
Manish Khiara has done the Fun Drive 20 times. Khiara said over breakfast on the second day of the over-nighter event: “As much as I can I try to be part of the event... That is what the Fun Drive means to me - it is an addiction and every year we await.”
Khiara added that this year he felt the route was seemingly easier thanks to the many marshals who were coordinating the route so well. “The markers were more and well placed at critical turns where we could have been lost. Great effort as usual.”
‘It was very cool’
Jordanian family also said they had a great time. Little Sophia who came to the event with her parents, older brother and grand-mother said they camped it out really well. “It was our first ever Gulf News Fun Drive. I was super excited to be camping overnight. We stayed in the VIP tent and it even had plug points to charge our phone. It was very cool. We all enjoyed it a lot and are sad to leave.”