Nation (photos)

UAE's coldest spot: I went to Raknah and played with ice

Photos: M. Sajjad

Published on January 13, 2021 at 11.30

This was the first time I experienced ice in the desert... and the first time I ever played with ice, says KT multimedia journalist.

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Raknah — an obscure spot tucked away in one corner of Al Ain — is currently the coolest spot in the UAE, literally. The area recorded sub-zero temperatures multiple times this week, resulting in icicles and ice sheets. (One photo in the collage above is supplied)
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Ice in the UAE desert is a rare occurrence, and being a long-time resident of the UAE, I had to go check it out. And boy, was I in for an icy, chilling treat! Not only did I see ice in the desert, this was my very first experience seeing water freezing over.
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The preparation
I got my rapid test done in Ajman and set off on the 170km journey to Raknah. I checked in to the hotel — which is a 19-minute drive from the location — around 11am.
I barely got any sleep, as I was just too excited. I recharged my camera and phone batteries and ensured they had enough juice to capture my adventure. I set off from the hotel around 2am.
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Raknah is about 4km into the desert off the main road. I went to the spot, guided by my GPS. It was pitch black and there was no one around. I came back to the main road and waited for my contact — Fahad Mohammed from the UAE Storm Centre.
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Getting there
As I waited at the spot, a couple of friendly locals came to me, asking if I needed anything. I explained I wanted to see ice. They told me to take a track into the desert. I did and found about five groups of Al Ain-based locals chilling in front of camp fires.
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The wait
The crackle from the fire was the only sound I heard in the desert night. Around 3am, Fahad reached the area and asked me to get into his 4-wheeler.
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Scouting for ice
For the next two hours, we scouted for ice underneath vegetation and in the desert. We didn’t find any. I came back to my car to take some rest.
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Ice, finally
Around 6am, Fahad sent me a message, asking me to go to a spot. He showed me his temperature monitoring device. My heart skipped a beat as I saw the recording: -1-degree Celsius. It was time. I spotted frost on top of vehicles and clicked away to my heart’s content.
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Chilling, literally
I chilled out, literally, as I played with ice — for the first time ever. This is, indeed, the World’s Coolest Winter — a domestic tourism campaign that encourages residents to discover the UAE’s hidden gems.
Stay tuned for my drone video that will premier on Khaleej Times digital platforms today.
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