NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC1-1579345749941
The Fun Drive offered lots of entertainment to the young and old alike Image Credit:

Al Ain: After an action-packed dune-bashing outing on Friday, hundreds of people enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of the desert camp during the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive in Al Ain region, before heading back home on Saturday in their four-wheel drives.

Friday had marked the start of the 39th edition of the adventure, this year titled ‘Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive - Tilal Swaihan Experience’, supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota, the main sponsor.

Huge turnout
Around 800 SUVs had on Friday explored a 146km loop route through sand dunes and flat stretches in the unspoilt expanse, pausing for pictures of the scenic views, before returning to camp in the afternoon.

The event was held in association with Tilal Swaihan, Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, Al Ain and ADNEC.

Around 800 SUVs had on Friday explored a 146km loop route through sand dunes and flat stretches in the unspoilt expanse, pausing for pictures of the scenic views, before returning to camp in the afternoon.

NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC133.JPG-1579345752729
A group of participants getting ready to leave

After freshening up, participants flocked to the various stalls at the camp, enjoying games, winning prizes and gifts and having refreshments. The camp was neatly lined with rows of tents; some like traditional Bedouin tents, others more contemporary.

NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC-1579345747185
The various stalls at the overnight camp

The central area had the stalls, where people – friends, families, children – tested their skills at various activities and games, including basketball, darts and cross-fit type contests.

Lavish spread

As the sun set in the cool and clear winter sky, the reddish twilight on the horizon provided a scenic backdrop to the camp. A lavish spread for dinner was served in a giant tent, followed by plenty of live entertainment on stage, such as folk performances and children’s games.

NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC322-1579345760379
Participants watch a belly dance performance

The line for complimentary coffee was especially long, while others snug into beanbags and massage chairs to relax. Camel rides, photo ops with falcons and traditional tents brought an Emirati vibe to one section of the camp. People laid out mats and foldable chairs in small circles, smiles all around. Group photos and selfies froze people briefly, before they started mingling around again.

After cosying in sleeping bags in the chilly, starry night, people woke up to a hot breakfast buffet in the catering tent. Satiated, they returned to their tents to pack up and took a short walk to their vehicles parked in rows outside the camp.

NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC32-1579345757858
Participants enjoying breakfast

Last to leave

Maryam Khan, from Pakistan, who has done the Fun Drive six years in a row now, said she and her family are always the last to leave the camp because they enjoy it so much. This fun drive also coincided with the ninth birthday of her son Mikhael.

Fun Drive is always a memorable occasion for us. My children always win something in the games. They play with each other, enjoy the sands, race with their remote-controlled toy cars...

- Maryam Khan, Dubai resident

“Fun Drive is always a memorable occasion for us. My children always win something in the games. They play with each other, enjoy the sands, race with their remote-controlled toy cars… We always look forward to the Fun Drive. The weather and scenery was lovely, and we’re already looking forward to the next Fun Drive,” said Khan, who lives in Dubai.

NAT 200118 FUN DRIVE PIC33-1579345763223
Participants reading the Gulf News coverage of the Fun Drive

The camp featured all kinds of amenities and facilities; plenty of washrooms, a prayer tent, police cabin, control cabin, mediclinic and first responders from civil defence and ambulance services.

Sponsors

The Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive was supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota, the main sponsor. The event was held in association with Tilal Swaihan, Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities, Al Ain, and ADNEC.

Checkpoint sponsors included Al Jazira Poultry Farm LLC, BLACK + DECKER, Dobinsons Spring & Suspension Trading LLC, FASTFIT, Orient Tours, Orient Travels, Shell HELIX Motor oils, Toyota and Western Digital.

Support sponsors included Byrne, Coleman, Emirates Water, Fly Audio & Almani by Ahaat, Mediclinic, TORC The Offroad Company and Techxhub.

Catering and food packs were provided by Capital Hospitality.

Fun Drive numbers were sponsored by Tilal Swaihan. The communication sponsor was SanDisk and tyre sponsor BF Goodrich. Shell HELIX Motor oils was the lubricants sponsor and recovery was by IATC.