Liwa Oasis lies 220km south-west of Abu Dhabi Island on the northern edge of the Empty Quarter (the Ruba’ Al Khali Desert) 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.
Liwa Oasis is one of the largest oasis on the Arabian Peninsula. In the past, Liwa was a lot larger than today, and it was also known as the Bu Fallah desert. This name came from the Bu Fallah tribe, which was, and still is, the largest tribe in the area. Liwa was not on the trading route as some people may tell you. Very simply, it was a region inhabited by a lot of Bedouin tribes, because it was rich in water resources and not too far from Abu Dhabi and the Al Ain Oasis – a landmark well-known for its commercial trade and as a stop-over for the traveling caravans coming from Oman. The 100km long crescent-shaped oasis is home to dunes of many different-coloured sands, and date plantations which make the oasis an important agricultural site of Al Gharbia (the Western Region). The annual Liwa Date Festival Launched in 2005 has made Liwa a star attraction for local farmers, he festival is essentially a contest between date farmers, who each present specimens from their own farms. Every year the event is held with the support of a member of the Al Nahyan family, and the festival is now a major cultural event: attracting around 2,000 competitors, 60,000 visitors, and featuring folklore competitions and heritage shows. Also, not to forget the Tel Moreeb (Arabic for ‘scary hill’) is one of the highest sand dunes in the world at almost 300 metres in height, with a width of 1600m and an incline of 50 degrees. Extreme sports fanatics have long been attracted to such a unique challenge, but it was not until 2006 that the Tel Moreeb International Festival was launched by the Abu Dhabi Motors Club (ADMC), which unites drag racers from over the world to compete for the fastest time taken to reach the top. Based on the oasis’s success among motor enthusiasts, the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates (ATCUAE) hosts an annual charity competition “Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge” for 4×4 vehicles, motorcycles, and quad bikes.
Historically, Liwa Oasis is closely linked to the federation of the Bani Yas tribes, one of which is the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, Al Nahyan. The first signs of modern life where felt in the late 50′s due to oil explorations, trucks and jeeps where introduced and the country started its rapid development, things changed. Houses were being built everywhere, roads laid out in the middle of the desert, hospitals, schools and so on. Thanks to the great effort undertaken by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (ruler of Abu Dhabi between 1966-2002) who made sure that each and everyone of his people enjoyed the fruits of this fast development and also thanks to the Al Gharbia development project, the Abu Dhabi government is currently developing Liwa’s potential as a tourist attraction by establishing community facilities and amenities in the area.
Liwa Oasis possesses both a unique environment and an ingrained agricultural tradition which have not only brought it fame, but which have also played key roles in development projects around the oasis. The Tel Moreeb dune at Liwa is one of the features which have captured international attention.
Location: Liwa Oasis can be reached within 3 hours by car from Abu Dhabi.
Sources: Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), UAE Interact