Umm Al Quwain: Nothing compares to the joy of having a sumptuous barbecue meal under the starlit sky after a hard day’s drive. And the food tastes even better if the atmosphere is spiced up by live music.
Indulging in that extra bite of kebab becomes all the more deserving if you have pushed yourself that extra bit, conquering the fear of the unknown in the wilderness.
More than 3,000 participants completed the exhilarating 37th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive in a circuitous route that tested their skills and endurance.
Participants reading Gulf News in the camp site at Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive. (Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News)
The drive culminated at a sprawling camp in the desert of Umm Al Quwain, off Emirates Road, offering the participants the much-needed opportunity to relax and enjoy a night out in a secure and harmonious atmosphere.
Flagged off from the Emirates Metroplex in Umm Al Quwain, a caravan of 800 vehicles completed a thrilling daylong drive along the dunes and mountains of the Northern Emirates.
As the off roaders made a beeline to the camp around sundown, the delicious aroma of a lavish dinner was already wafting through the cool winter air, tempting the connoisseurs and gourmands alike.
By the time the food got ready and tables were set up at a central enclosure of the camp, live bands began playing a range of tunes from African and Western to Bollywood and Asia.
Participants enjoying belly dance in the camp site at Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive. (Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News)
Families could be seen either enjoying the music huddled on the floor or heading from kiosk to kiosk, trying their hands at various free games as well as partaking of the freebies offered by the sponsors.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere, lovely relaxing feel after a hard drive, perfect way to end the fantastic trip,” said Alex Johanson, a teenager on his first Fun Drive.
Hemmed in by tents on all sides, some community tents officially set up for the participants, while many campers pitched their own private tents, the scene was that of an oasis in the desert. The inhabitants content and in complete harmony with each other and the nature.
“This is a perfect opportunity to understand the desert life. After spending the whole day driving through the dunes and mountains and seeing the nature from close, camping in open sky is what one needs to complete the experience,” said Alia Khan,” a student based in Sharjah, who was also a first timer, travelling with her family.
Following the dinner, the focus squarely turned on the centre stage where the live music and dance performances continued culminating with belly dancing.
As the evening grew and the breeze got stronger, the warmth of the sleeping bags seemed more alluring and the participants slowly headed to their tents to catch some much-needed sleep.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more lovely and relaxed atmosphere after the drive. Wonderful experience and it just gets better every year,” said Basim Abdullah, who was participating in his third Fun Drive after a break of two years.
Apart from entertainment, food and tents, the fair like camp had all the basic amenities such as washrooms, security, a mobile clinic, ambulances and a police outpost for participants to report any accidents or damages sustained by their vehicles during the drive.
After a good night’s sleep, the campers began waking up at dawn and following another sumptuous breakfast, began dispersing, with many raring to head back to the desert on their own.
32 years after the first Fun Drive was launched in 1986, the annual off road extravaganza, continues to be a great success.
The Fun Drive couldn’t have been possible without the support of marshals, as a team of 90 highly experienced marshals made sure the drive from one end to the other was smooth for all.
The 2018 Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive was supported by Al Futtaim Motors — Toyota, the main sponsors.
Checkpoint sponsors were Laban Up, Lacnor, Oasis, Orient Tours, Orient Travel, Pringles, Total and Toyota.
Support sponsors included Byrne, Denim, Flow Composite Manufacturing FZC, TORC The Offroad Company and Wildcraft.
Catering was provided by Foodcraft and JA Resorts & Hotels.
Official hotel was Barracuda Beach Resort UAQ.
Fun Drive numbers were sponsored by Amity University, Total was the lubricants sponsor and BF Goodrich was the official tyre sponsor.