Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Camping tradition protected, not lost

The demolition of camps in Dubai is not a ban on the practice, it is part of an attempt to preserve the culture and the desert wilderness.

The action taken by Dubai Municipality workers was swift and clinical. At dawn on Wednesday, heavy machinery moved in to demolish more than 80 camps, and there were warnings that all illegal tents in the emirate would be torn down before the weekend. Nothing would be spared.

At first impression, this might seem like a harsh overreaction by the authorities to a situation that could have been handled in a more measured way. However, there was plenty of notice. Tent owners had already been given a one-week extension of the original two-week grace period allocated for them to register or remove their tents and other belongings.

As the head of the Municipality's building inspection unit, Eng Jaber Al Ali, told The National: "We've given them more than enough time to comply. Today we are showing them that it was not all a bluff, and that we mean business." And by that he means ensuring the use of natural resources is as equitable as possible.

The cost of registration is reasonable - 22 fils per week for every square metre, up to a maximum of 300 square metres. And even on the day the bulldozers moved in, those owners who undertook to register their sites were given a further reprieve if they were willing to do so immediately.

This is a charged issue, because winter camps are a tradition in the UAE. For many people, setting up camp in the desert is not just a way to escape the more hectic aspects of life in the thriving metropolis Dubai has become, but a means of reconnecting with the ways of their forefathers.

While the arguments evoking tradition and heritage are valid, the move to regulate camping followed complaints of noise and littering. It also addresses the fact that some camps have developed a bad reputation as places where a small minority indulge in antisocial activity away from public gaze. Those people who are prepared to set up camp in the authorised areas of Al Warqa, Al Mushrif, Wadi Al Amerdi, Wadi Al Shabak and Al Khawaneej 2, to pay the modest fee for registration, and to abide by the rules, retain the right to camp out.

What the municipality has done is create an orderly framework that not only respects national customs but protects the desert wilderness that is also an essential part of Emiratis' shared heritage.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National