Although deserts are mostly barren, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these cannot serve as an excellent destination for people who are passionate about nature and culture. In fact, the deserts of the United Arab Emirates are home to many reserves that keep both natural and archaeological gems alive.

Take the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, for example. Considered as a prime destination for history buffs, this institution located in Sharjah, UAE is the best place to learn about the ancient Bedouins – the nomads who are believed to be the first occupants of the desert region.

Composed mostly of rocky and mountainous terrain, the town of Mleiha is deemed as one of the oldest archaeological sites in the UAE. Flooded with shallow water hundreds of millennia ago, it is now a major source of information to help modern citizens understand their ancestors.

But before you set off on a journey across the UAE desert to quench your thirst for knowledge, you must first make sure that you come prepared. Whether you’re a budding archaeologist or you simply wish to visit the desert to learn about its unique ecosystem, here are the eight essential things you must pack for the trip:

1. Clothing

Anyone who is experienced in exploring the great outdoors knows that cotton is not the best choice for hiking. Aside from lacking insulating properties, this material also takes some time to dry, which can be inconvenient when you sweat or accidentally get wet.

However, cotton clothing is heaven-sent for people going on a trip to the desert.

You see, cotton breathes well, so you’ll have a better chance of getting comfortable in the warm environment. And if you choose to wear long-sleeved shirts, you’ll get additional sun protection for your body. In terms of color, white and reflective hues are preferred because sunlight bounces off of clothes in this color.

Cargo pants and other long-legged bottoms are also ideal. Never wear shorts in the desert or you’ll risk getting blisters or a rash from the tough texture of camel fur from camel-back riding.

Whether you intend to stay overnight in the desert or not, make sure to pack the right clothing for this situation as well. This should include warm clothes like jackets and long pants. If you don’t, you’re putting yourself at risk of hypothermia as it can get very cold at night there. It’s best to come prepared.

2. Sunscreen

As you already know, the desert sun can become very hot during the day. To protect yourself from sunburn, remember to pack sunscreen with a high sun protection factor or SPF. Bring something that has a minimum of SPF 30, and adjust according to the type of skin you have.

3. Sunglasses, Brimmed Hat, and the Like

Even with sunscreen and clothes that cover most of your body from the sun, you’ll still need a good pair of sunglasses, a hat, and other items to protect your head.

When it comes to hat options for desert trips, sun visors and baseball caps aren’t enough. What you should bring is a wide-brimmed hat that could cover not just your eyes but also your neck and face. Remember: The wider the brim, the better.

Similarly, sunglasses are also indispensable in the desert. Aside from protecting against the bright rays of the sun, a good pair is also useful in preventing sand from getting into your eyes which may lead to irritation.

You may also opt to bring a big cotton scarf for your face, neck, and head. Although they often serve as an accessory for a fashion statement, scarves can do wonders in the desert. This is especially true when you get caught in the middle of a sandstorm as it is effective in preventing sand from piercing your skin.

4. A Mirror

Besides serving as a way to check how you look, mirrors also serve another purpose in the desert – as a signaling tool for emergencies. Believe it or not, a signaling mirror can make a whole lot of difference in this terrain. It would be best if you spend a few bucks on a good-quality mirror that could help rescuers find you in the event that you or your party gets lost during your desert trip.

5. Extra Water

Hydration is extremely crucial in the desert, so you must remember to bring sufficient water for your trip. Ideally, hikers must drink around two to six quarts of water a day. Make sure you have enough to last your entire trip and a bit more stored in your vehicle as a backup in case anything unexpected happens.

6. Electrolyte Replacement Powder

Electrolytes can help prevent hyponatremia, a condition that is characterized by a drop in serum sodium concentration in the body and causes people in the desert to experience nausea, vomiting, headache, and confusion.

Aside from serving as a supplement for lost electrolytes, packing electrolyte replacement powder also serves as a safety precaution if you run low on food or beverage supplies.

7. Portable Fan or Folding Hand Fan

One more way to stay cool in the desert is to use a fan. You can bring a portable fan, a folding hand fan, or anything similar.

8. Moisturizer

Since the air in UAE deserts is dry, you’ll need to moisturize your skin to keep it healthy. Make sure to apply it several times within the day. Your skin will thank you later.

Quick Roundup

The UAE desert is a great place not only to embark on an adventure in unique terrain, but also to learn about history and culture. To make the most out of the trip, you have to come prepared and bring all the essentials for a safe, comfortable and rewarding trip.

Create a packing list for your next planned education desert trip with the help of this article. You can also use it for a trip to a Dubai desert reserve.


Rasha El Saleh is the Conservation Education and Outreach Coordinator in the education team of Emirates Nature-WWF working on its programme, Connect with Nature. She leads the outreach and youth empowerment aspect in growing the Connect with Nature community within the UAE and providing opportunities for youth to lead in this community, in addition to supporting partnerships with vendors supporting and promoting active aspects of the programme.