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Rollin’ and tumblin’ across the desert

Every evening in cities like Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, gridlockedfour-wheel-drives make their way out of the city, for the dunes.

Every evening in cities like Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, gridlocked four-wheel-drives make their way out of the city, for the dunes. It’s the grassroots of the current Middle East motorsport craze…

The sick bags stuffed into the back of the seat in front indicate this isn’t going to be the smoothest of journeys. We’re not in an aeroplane, we’re in an off-roader and about to do what the locals call ‘dune bashing’ — driving at high speed across the undulating and constantly changing terrain.

Abu Salaf is a stretch of desert about 50 kilometres south east of Abu Dhabi, where waves of sand rise up to obscure the horizon.

Our car is a Chevrolet Tahoe, and the only special features are reinforced fenders and increased ride height; there are no harnesses, and no roll cage.

We stop to deflate the tyres. Seventeen psi is the required pressure. Too much air and the wheels will spin, losing grip and endangering the clutch.

As the 4x4 snakes across and over the dunes, the sensation is similar to skiing. And even more than snow, the fine surface changes constantly, shaped by the wind. It’s treacherous for the driver, as he has no way of knowing what lies beyond each crest.

As our driver Fouad Saimouah gracefully slides the Tahoe down one dune but, over the next, points the nose downhill.

The suspension crashes in the dip as the V8 powers us uphill and airborne over the rise. It lands on the side of a 45 degree dune and it feels like we’re about tip. Fouad steers into the turn, hits the gas, and the crisis is averted.

Fouad claims to have never rolled.

“My passengers always ask me about that, because it almost happens everyday.”

Top dune buggies
• Nissan Patrol
• Toyota Landcruiser
• Land Rover Defender

 
 
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