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Campervan nomads hit desert in style

Category: RV
Source: The National, Dubai
Publish Date: Sunday, February 8, 2009
Summary: Most of the RVs have already arrived and sit in an oval formation on a desert site located about 30 minutes from Dubai. Each RV has a palm-leaf hut in front of it with a sitting area and barbecue. The site will also have a playground for children, a paintball area, and a giant inflatable tent that could hold 2,000 people for weddings or company events.

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Bradley Hope


DUBAI // The first time Sheikh Mejren saw the portable homes better known as “RVs”, was on a trip to Europe with his family when he was 14.

“I saw it and I was really astonished,” he said. “It’s a good life living in these RVs.”

More than 30 years later, he has decided to introduce RVs to Dubai, spending Dh10m (US$2.7m) to ship three dozen Coachmen RVs from Michigan in the US to the desert.

The result will be “the first RV park in the entire Middle East”, said Sheikh Mejren Mohammed al Shaikh, 47, who is a second cousin of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The site, which is expected to open in two months, will be called “Relax RV Camping and Resort”.

“Relax is the key word,” Sheikh Mejren said. “People come here and relax. There is no entertainment like music... There is no shisha or belly dancers. These things have nothing to do with our culture.”

Most of the RVs have already arrived and sit in an oval formation on a desert site located about 30 minutes from Dubai. Each RV has a palm-leaf hut in front of it with a sitting area and barbecue. The site will also have a playground for children, a paintball area, and a giant inflatable tent that could hold 2,000 people for weddings or company events. A nightly stay will cost between $250 (Dh920) and $1,000 for a “VIP treatment”.

The target audience is Emiratis and their families, who Sheikh Mejren said could have difficulty finding a quiet place to camp and enjoy the desert.

“Most of these camp sites are not run by locals,” he said. The RV camp “is a new, very traditional kind of tourism. It’s about the culture of Arabs and the culture of the desert”.

Instead of riding a camel in a circle around the site, guests will be able to ride far into the desert in the spirit of the Bedouins, he said.

One option for guests will be to take the “Tortoise Service”, which involves renting one of the fully-driveable RVs. A driver will take guests to a private site in the desert, where they can see the stars, “but still have air conditioning”. The driver will sleep in a tent.

Still, the idea of RVs and “traditional Arabic” would seem to contradict each other. To Sheikh Mejren, however, the vehicles just make this kind of excursion realistic for modern Emiratis.

A whole family could rent several RVs and have a desert experience, but not suffer from the withering heat. And rather than just go to the desert in the winter, when temperatures are more reasonable, they can go year-round, he said.

The desert site of the RV camp has special importance for Sheikh Mejren and his relatives as it is not far from a well that was dug by his great grandfather, Sheikh Sultan bin Mejren, 200 years ago.

“This was the olden days when people travelled throughout the desert by camel,” he said. “Even when I was a kid, you hardly saw any cars on the roads.”

Sheikh Mejren said he had found himself drawn back to the outskirts of Dubai as the city became more frenetic and overwhelmed by ever-taller buildings.

“This is where I spend all of my time,” he said.


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