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How to survive in the desert

Ex-British royal commandos launch workshop on how to overcome the odds when you are stranded in the middle of nowhere

  • A desert survival lesson in progressImage Credit: Supplied
  • Camel dung is a perfect fuel for starting a fireImage Credit: Supplied
  • Fab four. Max Carter, Adam Lund, Pete Langley and Stuart KentImage Credit: Supplied
  • The must-have items on a desert tripImage Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Imagine losing your way in a desert with no contingency plan and very few resources.

Not an ideal situation. But a little preparedness can get you out of trouble and back to civilisation.

Abu Dhabi tour operator Arabian Nights Village has tied up with Global View Commando, a training solutions company run by four former British Royal Marine Commandos, to teach survival in a desert.

Just two weeks old in the UAE, the decorated men - Max Carter, Adam Lund, Pete Langley and Stuart Kent – are conducting desert survival workshops in the rolling red sand dunes of Al Ain desert.

“If you are in a survival situation, then obviously you haven’t planned your trip well. So the first thing you need to do before setting off on a desert trip is to make a detailed route plan and itinerary. A smart thing would be to share your plans and itinerary with your friends and stay connected with them so they can come and get you if they don’t hear from you,” says Carter.

“With temperatures changing from scorching hot during the day to freezing cold in the night, sparse plant and animal life and very little water to survive on, the desert can easily become a graveyard. It is important that you remain calm in such situations,” he advises.

Essentials for survival

“One can survive three minutes without oxygen, three days without water and three weeks without food. So prioritise your needs accordingly. Shelter and safety, water, fire and food are important in that order for your survival in the desert,” says Adam Lund, who recommends carrying a tent or a bevi bag during desert trips. “Even if you don’t plan to stay overnight, you should still carry a tent. You don’t know when you might need it. But if you don’t have one, find a shade during the day to keep yourself out of the direct sunlight. This will keep you from sweating so you won’t lose your hydration faster.”

The Survival Tin

A must carry to the desert is a ‘Survival Tin’ with multi-purpose items. Typically the tin should have a tea-light candle, lighter, razor blades, snail wire, alcohol swabs, purifying tablets, button compass and a safety pin.

Making water from a solar still

Water is one of the most crucial things for survival in the desert. “It is imperative you ration your water consumption and drink sips of it instead of guzzling it all down in one go. If you are lucky, you may find an oasis, else you need to learn to make water from a solar still,” says Carter. “Dig a hole in the sand that is deep (at least 19 inches) and wide enough to hold your container. Next, place the container in the centre of the hole and fill the gaps surrounding the container with anything wet, such as plants, cacti or even urine. Now, cover the pit with a plastic sheet. Condensation will take place on the underside of the plastic and because of its angle, water will run down towards the centre. Finally, drops will gather and fall from the apex down into the water container. The water will be drinkable but you can purify it further by adding a water purifying tablet.”


There are a number of reasons why you need to make a fire in the desert. It not only provides a means to prepare food, but also keeps you warm when temperatures fall drastically during the night. It also helps fend off predators, Fire is also a mood lifter and you need a lot of it when you are stuck alone in an arid land. “Camel dung is really dry and creates perfect fuel for starting your fire,” says Langley.


According to Kent Stuart, food should not be a priority when you are lost in a desert. “It makes you thirsty and go to the pit often. So just make do with your existing stock. But if you need to hunt for food, do it in the evening or night when the temperatures are down. The last thing you want is fainting with exhaustion in the desert.”


Some must haves on a desert trip

1. Pocket survival guide

2. First aid kit

3. Spare clothes

4. Back up phone

5.Long life food supplies

6. Sun cream

7. A hat or a scarf

8. Tent / bevi bag

9. Water-purifying tablets

Workshop charges: Dh999 (full day including dinner); Dh300 (90-minute session). For more info, go to:


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