UAE Driving Trip 2012 – Liwa Oasis

Liwa Oasis with contrasting green palm and golden brown sand
Dunes near Moreeb Dunes

Liwa Oasis, is our first stop on Day 1 of our UAE Driving Trip2012. Access to Liwa from Doha is through a usual Saudi road from Abu Samra and continues to Emirates Coastal Highway E11, until a turn-off just few kilometers after Tarif. Both Liwa and Madinat Zayed (a town between Tarif and Liwa) is well-signposted. Ignore suggestion from GPS if it directs you through a closer turn-off via Ghayathi (near Ruwais) or Habshan (before Tarif). Road to Habshan is exclusively for a gas company operating gas field in the area.

Out from Saudi border, the first roundabout with options to go to Saudi or UAE
A typical 129-km Saudi road from Qatar-Saudi border to Saudi-UAE border

Unlike 3 years ago, Road E11 is now taken off from Ruwais town center providing a 3-lane dual carriageway break of mostly 2-lane dual carriageway Road E11. Unfortunately it lasts for about 30km or so. Nevertheless all stretch of Road E11 is of excellent quality. Only thing is a confusion about speed limit where sign posts indicating 100km/h but big warning boards indicating 120 or 140km/h. Cameras are many.

On the contrary, a 129-km Saudi road is a 2-lane dual carriageway but without vehicle crash barriers in the middle. Patches of asphalt are common.

The 3-lane part of Road E11
Road E11 is mostly two-lane dual carriageway

Back to Liwa. Located about  100 km south of the Persian Gulf coast and 150 km SSW of the city of Abu Dhabi, Liwa Oasis is on the northern edge of Rub’ al Khali desert (Empty Quarter). Its geographical and economic center Mezaira’a, where the main entry highway from Abu Dhabi (Road E45) enters the oasis and then divides 65km to the east and 45km to the west . Other alternative to Liwa from Road E11 is through Gayathi on the west and Road E65 on the east (the road out from Hameem (where we used it to access National Auto Museum  and Al Ain from Liwa). Though it is only two lanes (with broad shoulders) it is rarely used, straight and provides better desert scenery.

Road to Madinat Zayed
Road in Liwa

Liwa Oasis is the historical homegrown of the Nahyan family, the leaders of Abu Dhabi emirate and the UAE. It was traditionally, and continues to this day, a date-palm farming region for bedouin tribes, especially the Bani Yas. The cultivated palm forests are very obvious and provide a great contrast to desert.

Moreeb Dune

Locally known as Tal Mireb (Scarry Hill), Moreeb Dunes is the most impressive dunes in the Emirates and also one of the highest dunes in the world. It is reported that the dune is measured a 120-m high, 1600m long and has 50 degree slip face. To me, it is not the dune itself but the way to the dune that makes it worth visiting. Access to Moreeb Dunes is through a two-lane single carriageway. Look for a brown direction sign as you leave Mezaira’a to the west.

–Check how to reach Moreeb Dune (Source: Abu Dhabi Motors Club):

The lonely road to Moreeb Dunes – about 25km from Mezaira’a – is winding, up and down very breathtaking golden brown-orangish  dunes, and 2-3 salt flat areas. Every so often we stopped just to admire the scenery and take some photographs. Two-lane single carriageway is in very good condition however beware of sand encroachment partially or fully covering the road.

Road to Moreeb Dunes is frequently encroached by sand dunes
Road to Moreeb Dunes

Few cars use the road as nearly nobody lives along it, except an industrial area and a camel farm few kilometers from main Liwa road.

Moreeb Dune is lively during an event organized by Abu Dhabi Motors Club. In Moreeb Dunes area there are camel racing track, car parking, helipad, park and market, motorcycle rental, family camp area, public camp area, mosque, and a fenced area for the event (store, VIP area, pit area and crowd area).

Ready to sandboarding at Moreeb Dunes high...120 meters
Moreeb Dunes area



During our short stay in Liwa, we managed to visit three out of many forts in Liwa area. All forts seem to be built around 19th century and built near water sources and are now bordered by date-palm fields. Watchtowers and high walls with gun holes at certain spaces indicate that there was a genuine necessity for protection and observation.  All the forts were well restored (though may not be not very authentic)

Mezaira'a Fort
Al Meel Fort


Al Jabbanah Fort
Road from Liwa to Hameem


Liwa Hotel

We stayed one night at Liwa Hotel – probably the only hotel  in Mezaira’a (other hotel being Tilal Liwa in Madinat Zayed and Anantara in Hameem). The hotel,  used to be a sheikh’s palace, is located at the most stunning location by perching on a hill overlooking the green Liwa Oasis and the barren Rub Al Khali desert: contrasting views of green and golden brown.

Its lush green garden of around 25 acres, sports facilities, a central big swimming pool and range of activities, the hotel provides a good retreat from bustling city. Life seems simple here in Liwa.

We booked a double room in one of the many rooms housed inside a two-story almost circular white palace. There are also three 3-bedroom villas with private swimming pool available for stay. Our room is spacious with an individual balcony overlooking a big parking lot L. The roomy feeling is also helped by very high ceiling it has. Wifi is available for free and it is reliable and speedy. Breakfast comes with room package. Fortunately though the hotel policy was children pay for breakfast we were quoted for free. Nice gesture.

Overall it was very nice stay and recommended hotel.

Liwa Hotel (Source: Liwa Hotel website)

Turnoff to Madinat Zayed/Liwa from E11 24°1’40″N   53°51’44″E

Moreeb Dune   22°58’35″N   53°47’14″E

Mezairah Fort    23°8’20″N   53°46’50″E

Al Jabbanah Fort              23°3’45″N   54°4’17″E

Al Meel Fort       23°8’28″N   53°53’48″E

Qutuf Fort 9km west of Mezaira               N 23.110812, E 53.730209

Liwa Oasis Hotel               23°7’24″N   53°46’28″E

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Next story: Emirates National Auto Museum and Al Ain


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