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Liwa beckons: Get ready to ride the dunes

Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive on January 13 promises an unforgettable desert ride for seasoned off-roaders and amateurs alike

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/XPRESS
Participants bashing the dunes during the 35th Fun Drive Overnighter at Liwa desert

Dubai: By the time you wake up this Friday morning, around 3,000 UAE residents will be out and about bashing the dunes of a picturesque desert in the country’s south west.

The lure of Liwa will bring together off-roaders – both experts and amateurs - from all over the UAE for the second time running at the 36th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive which kicks off early January 13.

The two-day weekend extravaganza will have entertainment, overnight camping and plenty of off-roading that will see drivers negotiate a challenging 240km route made up of eight segments including four gruelling desert stages and four link sections. It will be a roughly seven-hour drive through 55 per cent sand and 45 per cent gatch and tarmac, but the euphoria amongst participants is unmistakeable.

“Having lived here for 18 years, I was always very keen to be a part of this event and I am excited to drive through the desert come Friday, as are my girls and wife who has even taken an off from her duty at a government hospital even though we know in the back of our minds that it’s not going to be an easy ride,” said Indian Jaffar Ali, 48, who will be making his Fun Drive debut this year with wife Parveen and daughters -- Khateeja, Ayesha and Asma.

“I may not be an expert in off-roading, but I am looking forward to the drive because I want to experience the true beauty of one of the most fascinating deserts in the country. I know if my car gets stuck in the sand, the marshalls will be readily available for help” added the man from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh who works as an MEP manager in a Dubai-based consulting firm.

There are no such worries though for old-timer Khalid Al Matrooshi who first participated in the Gulf News Fun Drive in 1995. “It was a great experience for me as I was the navigator of the driver. Holding the map and navigating through the desert was a challenge because it was my first time and I didn’t know the route signs well. We kept missing the route, but then I am a totally different person today,” jokes the 40-year-old Emirati who recalls his most ‘ridiculous’ Fun Drive moment came when his car broke down.

“It was in 1996, the very next year when I had decided to get into the driver’s seat with a group with friends. I was 20 years old and did not have any driving experience in the desert and my car broke down in the middle of the desert. I remember we waited for four hours collecting as many as 70 water bottles from our fellow participants before a European man turned up to help us out. He eventually fixed our car in 10 minutes flat, much to our amazement. That was an era when mobile phones were unheard of. Things have changed dramatically since,” added the man who works as the director of communications at the Sharjah Sports Council.

However, what hasn’t changed, he said, is the joy of experiencing the beauty of the open desert that Liwa is sure to provide.

Starting at Al Fathiya on the Hameem Road in the Western Region, the 36th Gulf News Fun Drive will end at the spectacular Moreeb Dune in the Liwa region.

Fun Drive sponsors:

The Fun Drive is being supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota who are the main sponsor. Checkpoint sponsors include BF Goodrich, Dubai Duty Free, Orient Tours, Pringles, The Off Road Company, Total and VTools.

Support sponsors include Byrne, Canon, Danube, Dunkin Donuts, Emirates Water, Medeor Hospital, Nature Valley, Wildcraft.

Support hotels include Mafraq Hotel and Liwa Hotel. Total are the Lubricants Sponsor. Vehicle numbers are sponsored by Amity University.

Catering is by Jebel Ali Resorts & Hotels and Emirates Flight Catering. The event is also supported by Al Gharbia Sports Club and International Automobile Touring Club.


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