‘Glamping’: Dubai’s new take on desert camping

1 / 4
An Emirati national flag flies over the reservoir at the Hatta Dam where kayaks and boats are cruising, in the Dubai emirate’s exclave of Hatta, near the Omani border. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
2 / 4
A view of a tourist caravan camped at a mountain campsite in the Dubai emirate’s exclave of Hatta, near the Omani border. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
3 / 4
A view of a tourist caravan camped at a mountain campsite in the Dubai emirate's exclave of Hatta, near the Omani border. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
4 / 4
Boats and kayaks cruising in the reservoir at the Hatta Dam, in the Dubai emirate's exclave of Hatta, near the Omani border. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
Updated 08 March 2019
0

‘Glamping’: Dubai’s new take on desert camping

  • With “glamping,” short for “glamorous camping,” Dubai aims to expand on its renown for luxurious city living and its tradition of camping
  • Dubai is now offering stays in chic desert trailers, in plush mountainside lodgings and beach camps, as it seeks to put its own mark on the glamping trend that has swept world tourism destinations

HATTA, United Arab Emirates: Just over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Dubai’s skyscrapers, Mohammed Al-Kaabi strolls through the tranquil desert with his friends as the sun sets.
Kaabi, 27, hails from a long line of Emiratis, a people with a centuries-old bedouin history tied inextricably to the local desert.
Today, he is among a fast-growing group drawn to a new wave of a tradition of desert camping but with all the trappings of comfort, style and modernity.
With “glamping,” short for “glamorous camping,” Dubai aims to expand on its renown for luxurious city living and its tradition of camping.
Betting on tourism at a time of low oil prices, Dubai is now offering stays in chic desert trailers, in plush mountainside lodgings and beach camps, as it seeks to put its own mark on the glamping trend that has swept world tourism destinations.
“This place is far from the cities and the high-rises,” said Kaabi, sporting the traditional full-length white Emirati robe worn by men.
“Camping is very popular in the UAE, but when you want to bring the family it becomes more complicated,” he added, at a campsite in Hatta, near the Omani border.
“But here, safety and comfort are provided for.”
Camping is still a beloved way of life for many Emiratis, who take their equipment and head for the desert from the fall months onwards, when the scorching summer heat has faded.
Tourists and expat residents also increasingly opt to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Dubai welcomed a record 15.9 million visitors in 2018, many of whom were drawn to its mega malls, luxurious hotels and pristine beaches.
It hopes to push the figure up to 20 million visitors annually by next year, when it hosts the six-month global trade fair, Expo 2020.
The mountainous eastern Hatta desert has lots to offer “glampers” with a taste for adventure but also for their home comforts.
Near the Hatta dam, campers have a choice between a trailer, caravan or five-star lodge fully equipped with TVs and power points for charging a smartphone.
Seated outside a trailer, Jamil Fahmy, a Dubai resident from Saudi Arabia, said glamping was the perfect way to escape the city without compromising on hygiene.
“It’s fun, with the fire and hanging with friends and all that, but I personally prefer to sleep in a room with a bed and a private bathroom, and that’s what we get here,” he told AFP.
“It’s great to be an adventurer and explore and cook fireside, and that’s what we did.
“But when the time came, we retreated into the beautiful room and slept on a bed.”
Rooms with modern amenities, including bathrooms and beds, start from 400 dirhams (about $110, 100 euros) per night at the Hatta site, which opened in October.
The Hatta camping project, part of Dubai’s plan to use tourism to diversify revenues, is also home to a 350-meter zip wire.
Last year, Dubai faced a downturn in the real-estate market due to a supply glut, while oil prices also dropped, affecting the UAE as a whole.
Several glamping sites, some on the beach, have popped up across the UAE in recent years, with options to participate in yoga classes, star gazing or kayaking.
For Jay, a 37-year-old Briton, glamping offers a new experience after a decade in the UAE.
“We’re fairly outdoorsy, we came here kayaking before, we did the big zip line,” he told AFP, referring to the Hatta zip wire.
But, he added with a laugh that with the usual no-frills style of camping “you haven’t got a shower or all the facilities” so glamping is a welcome step-up.
“You get the outdoors and all of that, and nature, and you can barbeque — but you can also have a shower and get clean!
“It’s not five-star hoteling, but five-star camping.”


Sounds of the summer: the best festivals to visit this season

Sziget festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019
0

Sounds of the summer: the best festivals to visit this season

DUBAI: From electronica in Morocco to rock in the Japanese mountains, here are six music festivals worth seeing this summer. 

Beiteddine Art Festival

WHEN: July 18-Aug 10

WHERE: Beiteddine, Lebanon

DETAILS: Few festivals have a better location than this Lebanese music, art and culture fest set among the Chouf Mountains in Beiteddine Palace, built over 200 years ago. Tens of thousands of people attend every year to witness an enthralling mix of classic and contemporary music, theater productions and art exhibitions, staggered over three weeks.

HIGHLIGHTS: Iraqi singer and composer Kadim Al-Sahir; French actor and singer Gerard Depardieu interpreting the songs of legendary singer Barbara; Omar Rahbany, from the renowned Lebanese musical dynasty, with his Passport Chamber Ensemble; Moroccan star Abdou Cherif sings some of Abdel Halim Hafez’s best-known songs.

Fuji Rock Festival

WHEN: July 26-28

WHERE: Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata, Japan

DETAILS: Japan’s Fuji Rock hosts 16 different stages and a wildly varied mix of homegrown and international artists playing just about every genre you can think of. Now on its 23rd edition, the organizers overcame a disastrous first year at the base of Mount Fuji to establish the festival (in its ‘new’ location) as one of Asia’s most popular summer gatherings, regularly attracting 150,000 people.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Green Stage and White Stage host the biggest international names, including The Chemical Brothers, The Cure, Sia (pictured), Death Cab For Cutie, James Blake and Thom Yorke, alongside Japanese stars such as Ellegarden, Superfly, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation.

Sziget Festival

WHEN: Aug 7-13

WHERE: Budapest, Hungary

DETAILS: Huge music and culture festival in an idyllic setting on an island in the Danube that makes it easy to lose yourself in its self-contained unreal world. The weeklong festival has expanded from an underground student gathering in the early Nineties to become one of Europe’s most acclaimed festivals, reportedly attracting almost half-a-million visitors and staging over 1,000 performances annually.

HIGHLIGHTS: There’s such an overwhelming amount of music available that anyone attending is bound to find something they like. The biggest names this year include Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, Post Malone, Florence & The Machine, The National, and Martin Garrix, but there’s plenty of less-mainstream fare on offer too.

Woodstock 50

WHEN: Aug 16-18

WHERE: Watkins Glen, New York

DETAILS: The much-imitated, never-replicated OG of rock festivals marks its 50th anniversary this year, still billing itself as “3 days of Peace & Music,” just as it did when more than 400,000 people gathered in White Lake back in 1969. The original was a defining moment in Western popular culture, and although this year’s event is unlikely to have the same impact, it’s still one that music lovers from around the world are eagerly anticipating for its legacy as much as its lineup.

HIGHLIGHTS: The organizers have kept things pretty basic — no multiple stages here, just a long lineup of mainstage performers on each of the three nights, with classic-rock/folk acts such as Santana, David Crosby, Robert Plant and Canned Heat mingling with Miley Cyrus, Chance The Rapper, The Killers, Earl Sweatshirt and Jay-Z (pictured).

Oasis Festival

WHEN: Sept 13-15

WHERE: Marrakech, Morocco

DETAILS: Billing itself as an “intimate destination festival featuring today’s top underground electronic talent,” with the strapline “Dance Somewhere Different,” Marrakech’s Oasis Festival doesn’t go for the “something-for-everyone” vibe of so many summer festivals, instead concentrating its efforts to produce an unfailingly excellent celebration of electronic music in a stunning setting — a luxury resort near the Atlas Mountains. Ideal for dance-music lovers who don’t fancy the muddy grime and portaloos of your typical summer music festival.

HIGHLIGHTS: This year’s lineup includes experimental UK musician Four Tet, classically trained Swiss DJ-producer Sonja Moonear, Berlin-based DJ-producer Jayda G, and Italian-born duo Mind Against.

Rock in Rio

WHEN: Sept 27-Oct 6

WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DETAILS: Spread over two weekends in the Barra Olympic Park, Rock in Rio is one of the world’s largest music festivals. It’s travelled to Lisbon, Madrid and Las Vegas over the 34 years since its inception, but this year’s edition finds it back home in the Brazilian capital, and a major party is guaranteed.

HIGHLIGHTS: There are seven different ‘venues’ at this year’s festival, many of which are catering to local audiences with South American artists. ‘Palco Mundo’ is where the superstars play, and this year’s headliners include Drake, Foo Fighters (pictured), Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, P!nk, and Muse.