Experience the peace and tranquility of an overnight stay in the desert with Bedouin Oasis.
Bedouin Oasis is no ordinary campsite. Bedouin Oasis is glamour camping, or "glamping," as the expression goes. How so? Well, firstly, the tents are pre-erected for you and come complete with bedding. Secondly, dinner and breakfast are provided. Finally, but possibly, most importantly, there are clean toilets on site!! This is camping for people who are too posh, busy or inept (in my case) to handle ground sheets and tent pegs. It's camping for those who fancy the romance of a misty desert sunrise, but don't relish the thought of having to pee 'al fresco' in the middle of the night. It's camping for people who want to experience the quiet and solitude of the desert at night, but still want mobile phone reception and a continental breakfast in the morning. In short, it's my kind of camping!
Bedouin Oasis, in the Northern Emirate of Ras Al Kaimah, is a 90 minute drive from Dubai, along the E311. We arrived at the pick-up point as dusk was falling. As our party was all driving 4x4's, we could follow the awaiting Bedouin Oasis escort car on a short drive through the rolling sand dunes to the Bedouin Oasis campsite. (People without off-roaders can leave their cars at the pick-up point and are transferred to the camp site in the Bedouin Oasis car.)
The campsite itself is divided into two sections. There is a 'dormitory' which consists of twenty or so tents arranged in a horseshoe shape. The tents are small two man tents, complete with mattresses, sheets and blankets. They were basic, but clean. There was even two little bottles of water tucked in a tent pocket, which was a nice touch, though the children would have preferred the ubiquitous chocolate on the pillow. Speaking of children, Bedouin Oasis allows two adults plus one child in the slightly larger tents. It can be done, technically, but it would have to be a small child, and it is a very snug fit.
A short walk away there is the main area where dinner and breakfast are served, and the evening's entertainment is staged. We arrived at the campsite a little late to sample the pre-dinner entertainment which included camel rides, henna tattoos, and even sand-boarding for the more adventurous campers. However, if organized entertainment isn't your thing, you could always scale a nearby sand dune to watch the sunset in solitude.
Dinner, served at about 8pm, was home cooked, delicious and plentiful. Mounds of salads with freshly baked Arabic bread for starters, followed by a variety of kebabs straight off the BBQ, mildly spiced curries and some extremely tasty pilaf rice. There was some Umm Ali (which I learnt means Ali's mum) for dessert, but we were all too full to try it. We ate by lamplight at low tables, sitting on cushions in Arabic-styled marquees and felt very much like Lawrence of Arabia.
After dinner we decamped to a central carpeted area to watch a belly dancing display. Audience participation was very much the order of the day, and the belly dancer soon had us all, adults and kids alike, jiggling our hips in time to the music. Afterwards, some people stayed at the main campsite to sit around the campfire and smoke shisha. We wandered back to the tents, put kids to bed, and sat and talked quietly whilst marveling at a magnificent star-spangled sky (the result of little light pollution) before retiring to bed.
The next morning I woke up early to see the desert sunrise. There is something quite magical about the desert at dawn. The sand dunes were full of animal tracks, and the colour of the sand changed constantly as the sun slowly peeked over the horizon.
Afterwards, I scaled a large sand dune overlooking the campsite and watched as the camp slowly came to life. Cooks emerged from tents and started making bread for breakfast. Camels were fed and watered and a donkey and a dog appeared from nowhere much to the children's delight. Breakfast was a simple continental buffet type affair, with breads, cheese, pastries and fruit. After breakfast, people gradually packed up and drifted back to city and their real lives.
To conclude, Bedouin Oasis offers an authentic desert camping experience without any of the hassle associated with camping. Possibly hard core campers would sneer, but for first time campers, families with young children and people who like some basic amenities, it's perfect. I loved the old Arabia feel to it which made it easy to forget you are in the 21st century, and I would return in a camel's heartbeat.