300m-high dune, drifting: How UAE's Liwa festival has become a playground for giant four-wheelers

Hundreds of cars, SUVs and bikes gather in Liwa to celebrate Emirati culture and heritage, showcasing their skills and passion for racing

by

Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

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Published: Sat 6 Jan 2024, 11:01 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2024, 3:46 PM

Every year, Liwa International Festival becomes a hub for adrenaline-rush seekers, culture enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a unique experience.

Hundreds of cars, SUVs and bikes gather in Liwa to celebrate Emirati culture and heritage, showcasing their skills and passion for racing and traditional competitions. Visitors and participants of Liwa come from all over the UAE to witness the festival's wide range of activities and competitions, making it an event that's not to be missed.

With undulating sand dunes, the festival is held annually in Al Dhafra – geographically still a part of Abu Dhabi, but about three hours away from the capital city. It takes approximately four hours from Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman; and five hours from Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. Despite the extended distance from all around the Emirates, the festival has always been worth the trip, making it a memorable event for families and friends.

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The latest Liwa festival organised by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Liwa Sports Club that took place on December 8-31 last year, was a spectacle. It was a magnificent sight, with 1,700 participants and 14 high-octane sports activities.

From the roar of engines to the thundering hooves of horses, residents across the country were treated to an unforgettable experience found nowhere else. The festival featured an exciting range of racing activities, including cars, bikes, drifts, and UTVs, as well as traditional competitions like falconry, camels, and horse racing.

Highest dunes in the world

Liwa is most famous for the Tal Moreeb dune, which was bustling with visitors and participants this year. The Tal is one of the highest dunes in the world and presents a challenge for car drivers who attempt to race to its peak.

This year, electric cars, including a Tesla, reached the top of the dune, leaving many impressed. One viewer commented, "It's funny to watch, but equally impressive that the car was able to reach such heights.”

But it is the atmosphere of Liwa that makes it unforgettable. Fares Alblooshi, one of the visitors, told Khaleej Times: “The weather is cold and amazing; the atmosphere of Liwa and its people makes it great and memorable.”

Streets were adorned with colourful banners and posters, and some of the cars proudly displayed Liwa stickers.

“It was truly an incredible experience,” another visitor commented, as SUVs passed by with stickers: "If life becomes hard on you, gather your power and your guys and head to Liwa."

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