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Dining Among the Dunes

Article & Photographs by Kelli Delaney 06.03.2016

About 50 minutes outside Abu Dhabi, the expansive golden sands and untouched dunes of the Al Khatem desert make a fine spot for a unique overnight stay.

Erecting a tent in the desert of the UAE for camping

Glamp-tastic: Today's tents are a snap to put together.

I am the foodie of the family and love to organize dinner when we camp. To make the meal effortlessly good — and stylish — I prepare it at home that morning. I place my appetizers on platters and cover them with plastic so they are ready to serve during cocktails. Traditional Arabic favorites that don’t require silverware or reheating are perfect for fireside dining: a mezze platter; grilled halloumi (minislabs of chewy goodness made from goat and sheep’s milk); shawarma pita wraps filled with tender bits of skewered chicken and garlic purée; and to top it off, Umm Ali, a delicious Egyptian bread pudding made of layers of pastry, vanilla and pistachios, smothered and cooked in a sweet milk-and-cream mixture.

Mezze platter with fresh pita served while camping in the UAE

Fresh pita accompanies a mezze platter.

After dinner, we gather around the fire on oversized Bedouin cushions. The temperature begins to drop as the last bit of light suddenly disappears behind the dunes. The scent of frankincense blankets our campsite. 

The family gathers around a camp fire at dusk in the UAE

The family gets cozy by the fire.

It’s hard to describe the enveloping darkness of a black desert sky and the eerie knowledge that there is nothing around you for miles. You could very well be the only people left on Earth.

Camping under the stars in a desert in the UAE

Stars float over a desert camp.