The magical Liwa desert

In Liwa, in one of the most evocative landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula, there is a resort with luxury tents to experience the desert in every comfort. With its unique shapes and colours, the Liwa desert is the northernmost edge of the Rub’ al Khali, the so-called “Empty Quarter”, the world’s largest sand desert. Liwa Oasis is located 150 kilometres southwest of the city of Abu Dhabi and is one of the United Arab Emirates’ scenic landscape jewels.

‘Liwa Nights’, is the name of this original retreat, combining traditional elements of the Bedouin culture with a modern concept of comfort. It’s the so-called glamping, a word that derives from the fusion of camping and glamour, a concept that allows you to experience life in the desert, in contact with the wild without giving up the comforts. A perfect environmentally friendly combination which turns out to be an alternative to super-luxurious hotels heavily impacting on nature with their invasive buildings.

“I worked in the cultural field and I noticed that expats in the Emirates did not have many opportunities to meet with locals and learn about the true Emirati hospitality,” tells me Salem Mazrouie, owner and creator of Liwa Nights’ project. Being able to intercept the need of those who were not born in the Emirates of getting in touch with the Emirati population is Salem Mazrouie’s great intuition. Let’s find out more about this unique resort, surrounded by a boundless expanse of sand dunes. 

Dunes and camels

Exploring impressive Liwa desert is such a memorable experience. The landscape is quite varied, from wide flat expanses, once housing the seabed, with residues of salt and limestone, to areas where the sand takes on colours ranging from pink to orange. “I thought of creating a resort with the aim of showing the people who were not born here our culture, the desert, the camel rides –Salem Mazrouie explains to me- The idea is to experience Bedouin life, to show the way we used to live when we were kids”.

Salem Mazrouie, in fact, lived in a tent until the age of 11 and still today in each of his residences, from the main one to the farm where he breeds camels, he always has a majlis, or a tent that is used for entertaining guests. Visitors who choose Liwa Nights come from all over the world, from Europe and the United States, and as Salem tells me, “When they come and get passionate about our desert, and start coming back again and again, they gradually help to build a real community. A friendship is established, strengthened through meetings, party occasions, and trips “.

A family atmosphere where you can enjoy typical food, made above all of grilled meat, rice, traditional Emirati bread, eggs, cheese, dates and coffee. You can admire the stars, interact with camels, discover falconry, go hiking and learn the secrets of driving in the desert.

Tents like luxurious hotel rooms

Liwa Nights’ tents are real 5-star hotel rooms. They are spacious, full of elegant accessories, equipped with bathrooms and showers, spotless. “These tents are the result of a project studied for 4 years. They were made to my design –Salem Mazrouie tells me- We want people to relax and have fun. We want to introduce them to the best of our desert, giving them the opportunity to get to know our country and the true Emirati culture”.

Salem’s relationship with the desert is ancestral and he tells me about Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, who said: “I don’t want to bring Bedouins into civilisation, but civilisation to Bedouins.” So, with that idea in mind, he began to build small towns in the places where the Bedouins lived, creating schools, homes, farms where dates are grown and camels are bred.

“My grandparents had a house but did not live there, they preferred to stay in tents – Salem tells me – We only went home during the summer, in the hot season”. Liwa Desert can be reached in less than three hours by car from Dubai and is an unmissable trip to definitely plan if you decide to visit the Emirates on the occasion of Expo 2020. This year Spartan Arabia, an international competition in which to measure athletic and endurance skills currently underway, has chosen Liwa for four days of obstacle racing, marathons and extreme trials.

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