Crackdown on Desert Safari Camps Run Without Permits

Martin Croucher
Filed on November 18, 2008

DUBAI - Around 200 tourists were expected to arrive at desert camps run by North Tours in Lehbab on Sunday night for a buffet meal and an evening’s entertainment.

But on Sunday morning at 10.30, bulldozers from Dubai Municipality demolished around Dh150,000 worth of equipment at the two adjacent camps, on Hatta Road.

The move came as part of a crackdown on desert safari companies which apparently do not have proper land permits.

Sunday night, North Tours owner Suresh Lalgee was picking through the pieces of the camps to see what could be salvaged.

“We received a notice two weeks ago that we needed to move out,” he said. “But it takes a long time to pack up the camps. We also had nowhere to go, so where could we leave the equipment?

“For two weeks we have been negotiating back and forth with the Land Department about an alternative location for the camp. But this morning they came with no warning and ruined it,” he said.

He said that there was a police car, a bulldozer and a vehicle from Dubai Municipality that came to the site.

“We tried to reason with them, but they wouldn’t listen to us,” he said.

The company was just one out of 10 others who were affected by the crackdown that began on Sunday on desert tour operators who do not own licences for the land on which their camps are built.

“Anyone who wants to make a camp has to have proper permission from the government,” said Omar Abdul Rahman, head of the Building Inspection Section at Dubai Municipality.

“They can’t just go and do what they like. There are a lot of procedures and things that they must do beforehand.

“This is not a new rule. We have issued notices to all of these people. They put up fences without consulting anyone. They can’t just use the land as they please.”

However, Lalgee said that he had built the camp in 1997 but the first time he had heard about this rule was when he received the notice two weeks ago. His company has around 8,000-9,000 customers a month and works with reputed operators such as Al Rostamani.

Lalgee said that he was expecting the Dubai Land Department to provide his company with an alternative location from Monday morning (today).

The owner of Desert Road Tours, Ayman Khalil, said he had been given until Monday morning to vacate his camp.

He said that he believed that cutting down on the number of desert tour operators would only impact tourism in Dubai.

“We have around 200 people a day,” said Khalil.

“If so many camps close, where will all the tourists go? People come to Dubai to see the sights and they love the desert.”


This is the most well deserved punishment for a company like North Tours. We are still fighting for the amount we spend towards an unorganised trip arranged by North Tours. It just proves that God is really fair. -Xyz, Dubai

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