Ayikkara Abdul Rahim and family before they set out on the evening drive last Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: What was supposed to be a weekend family outing turned out to be a nightmare for an expatriate Indian family that lost its way and ended up getting stuck in the desert sand with their vehicle for six hours at night, before police arrived to rescue them.

The family of Ayikkara Abdul Rahim from Kerala now has no words to thank Dubai Police. “It was pitch-dark and there was not a single vehicle anywhere in the vicinity,” said Abdul Rahim.

Recounting the experience, the IT engineer, who has been in Dubai for ten years now, said the family comprising his wife Jamshiya and children Rimsha Fathima, six, and Mohammed Rashdan, three, had left their home in Al Ghusais after 3pm.

“I have a saloon car. We didn’t intend to go to the desert. We just thought of going for a long drive and spending the evening at the lakes in Al Qudra. We thought of seeing Love Lake or Al Qudra Lake,” he told Gulf News.

However, Abdul Rahim did not use GPS and lost his way. “Since the roads towards the lakes are not asphalted, I thought I would somehow reach there and kept driving. We were wondering why we were not seeing any other vehicle. But it was only after we ended up hitting the sands that I realised we had been driving in the opposite direction. I couldn’t get the car out of the sand because it kept sinking as I accelerated.”


By then it was 7pm and his attempts to find the location using Google Maps failed. “It showed the Lehbab Road, which is somewhere in Jebel Ali. Probably that was the main road after the desert,” he said. Since Abdul Rahim could not ascertain the location, the car recovery service from his insurance company also could not help them, he said.

“Then I remembered reading reports about the police rescuing people and called 999. Due to network issue, I couldn’t talk to the car recovery company properly. However, fortunately, the call to 999 went through and it was clear,” he said.

Since he failed to send the location to Dubai Police as well, Abdul Rahim said the Operations Room informed all the stations around that area.

“Kids were really scared, but the police assured us that they would definitely come to our rescue. They kept calling us until they reached us.”

An official with Dubai police confirmed receiving an emergency call about a family losing their way in the desert. Police rescue teams and policemen from the Al Faqa’a Police Station identified the location in Al Lisaili desert in Dubai and rushed to rescue the family.

Ray of hope

For Abdul Rahim, the blue light from the police car from far literally turned out to be a ray of hope. “When I finally saw that light, I informed the police. They turned off the light to check if I had seen their car only. After verifying it, they drove further and reached us. Instead of questioning me or reprimanding me, they gave us food and water and helped me with towing my car out of the sand. A police officer drove us till we reached the main road. I don’t have words to thank the officers who rescued us, though they said it was a routine job for them.”

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Dubai Police said they are ready for emergencies round the clock with advanced vehicles and equipment. “People who need help in such situations should call 999 and share their location in detail for a quicker response,” the official said.

Abdul Rahim also urged people to be cautious while venturing off city limits and take precautions to avoid getting into trouble like him.

Tips for off-road adventurers:
If you are going off city limits or venturing out to the desert, make sure to use any navigation app that uses GPS coordinates and show the location map.
Download the map to use it offline if you are heading to an area where there is poor network coverage.
If you think you have lost your way, try making contacts with others immediately and try not to venture further.
Call 999 if you are unable to get any other assistance.
Essential items to have in your car
It is always desirable to have the following essential items in your car even if you are not planning to hit the dunes:
GPS and map
Tow rope
Car jack
Jumper cables
Tool kit
Spare tyre
Tyre pressure gauge