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Abu Dhabi: The ultimate off road endurance thrill took place in the desert of Abu Dhabi on Friday with the 38th edition of the Gulf News Fun Drive.

Supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota, participants got on their way from 9am in the morning from Al Fathiha in the Hameem road, with their journey taking them all the way to Moreeb Dune deep inside the Liwa desert where they made camp for the night. Criss-crossing the desert and challenging sand dunes, the drive took as long as eight hours or more until participants finally reached their destination.

The morning itself started with a delightful breakfast for all participants who checked in for the long drive ahead. Once energised and ready to go, the convoy of 700-800 vehicles made their way on their 260km journey which was divided into eight sections. Ensuring everything ran smoothly, there were 92 professional marshals on hand helping and assisting any vehicle that ran into any trouble such as getting stuck in the sand.

Originally started in 1986, the Gulf News Fun Drive has become one of the most popular off road events in the country, with its annual event seeing thousands of people taking part.

“This is my 10th time at the Gulf News Fun Drive. When I came for the first time I was single but now I come with my wife and kids,” said Maroun Al Haddad, a Lebanese resident taking part in the event.

“I always come back because it’s a very nice two-day event, we get to drive and explore the desert and then camp outside — it’s an excellent experience. Every time you come to the desert you learn something new and you always challenge yourself,” he added.

Al Hadad’s daughter, Evana, 13, said she enjoyed being with her family for the outdoor adventure.

“This is my fourth time coming to the fun drive. It’s really fun and I enjoy driving on the sand dunes and being with my family. It gets crazy sometimes like when we get stuck with our car in the sand, but that’s what also makes it fun.”

Also at the fun drive was Pakistani father and son duo Faisal and Taha Nadeem, with this year’s event being their third together.

“I love the desert and this is the best time for me to bring my car and drive for endless hours. In the previous years, I wasn’t able to finish all the checkpoints, and so for this year’s fun drive I have made it my personal challenge to complete all checkpoints. With the weather being perfect as well, this is the perfect time for an outdoor adventure in the UAE,” Faisal said.

For his son Taha, 11, the outdoor camping was what he was looking forward to the most.

“I like coming to the fun drive every year, it’s so exciting and fun going into the desert and then reaching the camp and staying out all night. I tell my friends that they should tell their parents to register because they will have so much fun.”

Family adventure

Mariam Khan, also from Pakistan, said the Gulf News Fun Drive was family time for her and her three children and husband.

“We have been coming since 2016, and for us the Gulf News Fun Drive is a time to do something really exciting as a family. During this time we make sure to keep all electronic devices away to make the experience as authentic as possible.

“Everytime we come something new happens while we’re driving out in the desert, so it’s always something to look forward to. All of us look forward to going up and down the sand dunes, and then enjoying the night and entertainment at the campsite,” she added.

Zayed Al Noori, from the UAE, who has been coming to the Gulf News Fun Drive since 1996 said the event was the best organised offroading adventure in the UAE.

“I was very young when my father brought me, and since then it’s a tradition that has continued to this day. This year I’ve come with my mother, sister, cousins and many close friends, we’re going together as one big group.

“I have been to other off road events but I can honestly say the Gulf News Fun Drive is the best one, it’s very organised and the route that is set up is amazing and gives you a true journey to the heart of desert,” he added.

“As soon as the Western Region and Liwa were announced as this year’s route, I immediately started doing my planning and research to be ready for it, because I know a journey like this is a very difficult one,” he said.

Fun ride

For Indian resident Aquin Colaco , this was his first fun drive.

“This isn’t something that I have done before but I am expecting to have a lot of fun,” said Coaco before the drive began. “I think that I will be able to finish all the checkpoints without a problem. I love driving and so for me to be able to drive in the desert for so many hours with a big group is something fantastic. It’s not everyday you get to have this opportunity and then camp out under the stars.”

At the campsite, a slew of live entertainment including magic and circus shows, belly dancing performances, a live DJ and a band, entertained the participants. After a breakfast in the morning, they will make their way back home with no offroading scheduled on today.

Sponsors

The Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive is supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota who are the main sponsor. Checkpoint sponsors include Al Jazira Poultry Farm LLC, FASTFIT, G-Shock, Orient Tours, Orient Travel, Toyota and Western Digital. Support sponsors include Byrne, Emirates Water, Flow Composite Manufacturing FZC, Fly Audio & Almani by Ahaat, JANSPORT, TORC The Offroad Company, US Polo Association. Catering is by JA Resorts & Hotels and Mafraq Hotel. Food Packs are by Mister Baker.

Fun Drive numbers are sponsored by Amity University Dubai, Communication Sponsor is SanDisk and the official Tyre Sponsor is BF Goodrich. Recovery is by IATC. The Fun Drive is being held with the support of Al Gharbia Sports Club.

Gulf News Fun Drive

Where: Western Region, starting point at Al Fathiya on Hameem Road

Distance: 260km to campsite in Liwa desert

Driving time: 7-8 hours

700-800 vehicles taking part

92 marshals