Trip Reports

United Arab Emirates 2009

Liwa Festival 2009
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sand Dunes near Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates
The dunes in Abu Dhabi are buttery smooth, and go much farther than the eye can see….

By Jon Crowley,

I received a phone call from Grant George at Funco UTV in early January about tagging along with him on a trip to the sand dunes near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. I had always wanted to go and check out the dunes there, but my first reaction was “I can’t make it.” My family was in the car with me and heard the whole conversation. After I hung up with Grant, my wife and kids told me that “I can’t make it” wasn’t an option.  What a cool family I have.

Fast forward three weeks and I was on a plane headed to a country half way around the world from my home in northern California. The flights to get from Sacramento to Dubai were incredibly long, but the hospitality shown to us by our host Khaled Bin Shaiban made it all worthwhile.

Having seen a few pictures from over there, I had expected to see a few sand cars and lots of ATVs, but didn’t know what to expect for UTVs. My first clue that UTVs were big was when we stopped for gas in Liwa.  As we finished fueling up, two new Polaris RZR S’s pulled up for some fuel as well.  I know that a lot of you out there are lucky enough to be able to drive your UTVs on the street, but being from California, I don’t get to see any UTVs on the road, let alone at the gas station.  And these were brand new RZR S’s, so I knew something was up.

Our group went for many rides from Liwa to Moreeb Dune where the sand drags happen and each time, we had four to seven UTVs on the ride.  One long travel Rhino, a fully done up Funco Teryx, and a bunch of RZRs and RZR S’s. The ride from Liwa to Moreeb Dune was a fun ride that was probably about ten miles. There were smooth dunes as far as you could see until you got close to the big hill, then tracks were everywhere. Moreeb Dune was quite a happening spot and lots of UTVs zipped across the valley floor and around the dunes. And they weren’t just a bunch of stockers, there were long travel kits, roll cages, tires and wheels, stereo and custom paint.  If I closed my eyes I could almost imagine that I was still in California at Oldsmobile Hill in Glamis.

At one point, I saw two nicely done up Teryxs approach and stop. I heard a voice that sounded familiar and looked up to see Todd Romano from Dragon Fire Racing walk up.  What a small world this is sometimes.

Right before I saw Todd, I looked around the two groups that had parked on the hill across from Moreeb Dune.  Within about 100 feet of where I was standing I counted fourteen RZRs.  The next morning, one of the guys was reading the local Abu Dhabi newspaper (in Arabic) and on the front of the Sports page, there was an ad for the RZR S. The RZR S has quickly become a huge hit in the United Arab Emirates.

The dunes in the United Arab Emirates are an amazing sight that go forever and the people there sure have caught on to how much fun you can have riding in the sand. The UAE has great potential for UTV manufacturers that can figure out how to deliver product there easily and even more potential for aftermarket parts manufacturers that spend the time to learn the market.My trip to the other side of the world was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am thrilled I didn’t miss it. I want to thank Grant for inviting me to tag along, Khaled for the wonderful food and place to stay, and my family for telling me that I had to go.

 Liwa Festival 2009

Under the patronage of H.H Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,  Liwa Festival 2009 takes place from January 25, 2009 to February 1, 2009. The festival included the following events : camel race, horse race, falcon race, Shooting championship, in addition to motorbike, ATV, dune car and 4×4 championships.

The location of the 2009 Liwa Festival is Tel Moreeb (aka Moreeb Dune or “Scary Mountain”). The area has some of the highest and steepest sand hills in the world.

A paved, 25 kilometer desert road leads you to Tel Moreeb from Liwa Oasis.


   Polaris RZR

Long Travel Polaris RZR near Liwa Oasis, UAE Long Travel Polaris RZR - Rigid Insustries
Newspaper ad for Polaris RZR S on the front of the sports page. The Polaris RZR is the most popular UTV in the United Arab Emirates from what I saw.  Especially the RZR S.

Kawasaki Teryx - Dragon Fire Racing Kawasaki Teryx - Dragon Fire Racing Kawasaki Teryx - Dragon Fire Racing
Kawasaki Teryx are starting to make a play in the UAE.

 Polaris RZR S in Liwa Oasis, UAE
Gas Station in Liwa Oasis

 Long Travel Yamaha Rhino in Liwa, UAE
Dunes near Liwa Oasis

United Arab Emirates - Flacon Training United Arab Emirates - Flacon Training United Arab Emirates - Flacon Training United Arab Emirates - Flacon Training
Falcon Training near Moreeb Dune

 Moreeb Hill, United Arab Emirated Moreeb Hill near Liwa Oasis, UAE Moreeb Hill, Liwa

Moreeb Hill - Abu Dhabi

Fireworks at the Liwa Festival - Moreeb Hill Fireworks at Moreeb Hill during the 2009 Liwa Festival (UAE)  
Moreeb Hill

Smoking Shisha or Hooka is big in the UAE

Mountain Dew
“Mountain Dew” with a removable pull tab that the United States haven’t seen for almost 30 years.

A little tough to get used to sitting on the floor and eating with my hands, but the food was incredible. 

2009 Yamaha YFZ450R 2009 Yamaha YFZ450R at Moreeb Hill, UAE
I got to ride a brand new 2009 Yamaha YFZ450R for a few days.  Couldn’t ask for much better than that. Look for afull YFZ450R ride review on

 Todd from Dragon Fire Racing and Grant from Funco Motorsports
Met a few other people from the United States over at Moreeb Hill.  Todd from Dragon Fire Racing was cruising in a Kawasaki Teryx.  Also saw Chris from CBM, Joe from Sand Limo and Ed “Pound Sand”.

Sand Dunes near Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates Sand Dunes near Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates Sand Dunes near Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates
The dunes in Abu Dhabi are rippled and smooth.  Once you get away from Moreeb Hill, there are virtually no tracks for miles after miles of dunes.

More Information about the area:

The United Arab Emirates  (UAE) is a federation of seven states (emirates) – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain – formed in 1971 after independence from Britain. The terrain varies from the bare rock mountains of the north and east to the spectacular sand desert that runs south into Saudi Arabia and is the northern edge of the Rub al Khali – the “Empty Quarter”.

The Rub’ al Khali, or the “Empty Quarter” in English, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The desert covers some 250,000 square miles and is one of the most inhospitable places on earth, and entirely uninhabitable.

The Empty Quarter is 1200 km long and 650 km wide, and is among the largest continuous deserts in the world. About 80 percent of this area is in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and covers about a quarter of the Kingdom’s land surface.  Its eastern edges extend into the United Arab Emirates, and its southern margin is in the Sultanate of Oman.  Parts of its southern and southwestern limits are in the Republic of Yemen.

Satellite Image of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Google Maps

Liwa Oasis is located south-west of Abu Dhabi on the edge of the biggest sand desert in the world, the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter). The Liwa Oasis is a gateway to the deep sands of the legendary Empty Quarter and is known as the playground for 4×4 dune bashing. Dune bashing is an increasingly popular activity, which involves tourists being driven out into the surrounding desert in a 4X4 and driving up and down the sand dunes.

Satellite Image of Liwa Oasis, UAE – Google Maps

Moreeb Hill (Al Moreb Hill) is the place for organized drag races. With a reported 50 degree slipface, and a 300m long hill climb, it is a perfect place for sand drags. Moreeb Hill is one of the largest hill climbs in the world. It is also known as Tel Moreeb or “Scary Mountain”.

Satellite Image of Moreeb Dune, UAE – Google Maps

Moreeb Hill - UAE Abu Dhabi
Moreeb Hill, Abu Dhabi


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