Al Gharbia, meaning ‘west’ in Arabic, is a vast expanse of undulating desert sands and 350 kms of picturesque coastline. This region lies west of Abu Dhabi and makes up a whopping 2/3rds of the UAE’s land. The area is sparsely populated with major concentrations in Mirfa, Kiwa, Ghayathi, Ruwais and Madinat Zayed, the capital city. Al Gharbia is also a haven for nature lovers and is home to many interesting flora and fauna, such as the indigenous oryx, sand gazelle and pink flamingoes.

If you’re looking for an authentic adventure experience while exploring the desert, Al Gharbia is the place to be. The sand dunes and desert tracks are perfect for a night spent camping under the stars. The region, once under-developed, is gradually opening up to tourism as people are setting out to discover these unexplored regions of the UAE.

Getting There

Al Gharbia is easily accessible by road from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with a drive time of approximately three hours. You can easily get a car rental in Abu Dhabi and drive down for a weekend of exploring the wilderness with family or friends. If you’re planning to go off-roading, you need to ensure that your vehicle is a 4X4 that is properly equipped for driving on sand.

Off-Roading in Liwa

Liwa, one of the largest cities in Al Gharbia, is a popular destination for off-roading enthusiasts thanks to its location on the edge of the Empty Quarter of the Sahara Desert. It also has the highest dunes in the UAE, which are an incredible sight towering over you at a height of 300 m above sea level. This is where you need to head to for some of the most exciting off-roading experiences.

Liwa has some of the best landscapes for adventure driving. Moreeb Hill in Liwa is renowned as one of the tallest sand dunes in the world at 360 m, and its 50-degree incline makes it the destination of choice for motor sports lovers. If you visit in January, you can catch the Moreeb Hill Climb at the Liwa International Festival. The Climb features the region’s most powerful quad bikes, four wheel drives and dirt bikes.

We recommend you head to Al Gharbia in the cooler months if you plan to drive off-road. Just make sure you find a group of enthusiastic adventure lovers (never drive alone in the desert) who are ready for toughing it out over the extreme landscape of Al Gharbia.

With the ever-shifting landscape and harsh desert vistas, we can guarantee that you will never tire of driving in the desert. Just make sure that you have the proper papers and insurance in place. If this is the first time you will be driving off-road, you have the option of learning the basics and getting the proper equipment at several Abu Dhabi-based tour companies.