Wadi Bashing 1970 and 80s

A "WADI" is a Dry Stream or River Bed that usually fills with water during the rainy season. Wadi's are found in the Hajar Mountains and surrounding areas just about an hour's drive from Dubai. In 1970s Dubai, driving along these Wadis in 4WD's increasingly became a Friday "outing" for both Expatriate and Local Families. It was fun - and potentially dangerous for the unwary and occasionally lethal for those who chose to ignore the danger!

What does a Wadi look like?

Wadi Rams by Pattar

Wadis contain sharp rocks, boulders and dust. Dry during the summer season. Dangerous in the Winter when rains or sudden storms can fill the Wadi with water in minutes up to 7 metres or more deep.

Why is it called "Wadi Bashing" ?

Wadi driving required concentration and care. There was the ever present risk of vehicle damage or tyre puncture with the real consequence of being stranded. No Mobile Phones back then!!

Wadi Bashing in 1970s

Getting to explore Dubai's hinterland in the 1970s was difficult. There were few roads, no easily obtainable reliable maps or 4WD vehicles.

I bought a Landrover for 100 Dirhams! It was a wreck! It had been used on a Daid farm before being abandoned. A lot of hard work got this old Landrover up and running again. Then we could go exploring!

Whatever maps were available provided directions for the outings - often copies of Dubai Defence Force maps obtained from "Persons Unknown"! "Let's go there and see where it leads us" sometimes led to interesting places. There would be new things to see and new places to explore. How far your explorations took you was limited by time available. Fridays being the only official day off was usually limited to what could be done in a day. Venturing into Dubai's hinterland meant an element of risk. Breaking down in a remote Wadi could be serious - no mobile phones then. Chances are you would see no one as you edged your way along these wadis and tracks. There were villages which, in 1970s were still inhabited by local Bedouin Arabs living in traditional barasti homes. Later they relocated to purpose built "villages" provided by the Federal Government. There were Border Posts where Guards wanted to inspect you and your vehicle before letting you proceed - but done with good humour and a good deal of curiosity. Overtime more 4WD vehicles became available - particularly Japanese imports. Their comfort and capabilities enabled more people to get off road to more places more easily. Slowly exploring changed to seeking secluded places where a group of friends and family could enjoy themselves. New roads eventually opened up Dubai's hinterland making places accessible by car previously reached only by 4WD. By the 1990s Wadi Bashing was something many people did, often in groups.

Increasing traffic in the Wadis, traffic hold ups at water crossings, road signs installed at the side of Wadi tracks and increasing amounts of litter both in and around the Wadis took away some of the wonderment of Dubai's Wadis and Wadi Bashing. Latterly some of these tracks have become tarmac roads.

Going Wadi Bashing? Then get a 4WD !!

Landrover 19764WDs were hard to come by in 70s Dubai. Japanese 4WDs had yet to flood into the Dubai market. LandRovers were favoured. Finding one to buy was difficult. New LandRovers were expensive and in short supply. Most were already destined for Construction Companies, the Government or influential Dubaians. Secondhand LandRovers had invariably experienced a hard life and not worth buying. My "bright" idea was to buy Landrover in UK while on leave. Scanning "The London Evening Standard" identified a short wheel base Landrover for sale at a farm near my home. A telephone call later and I was inspecting this LR. It was in good condition apart from left side damage where the Farmer's wife had collided with their farm gate. A price was agreed. I was to call back next day to collect the LR. When I did, the Farmer was embarrassed. His wife had collided with the farm gate again. Damage was on the LR's other side. Price was further reduced to 700 pounds. So I set off with the LandRover and found a LandRover Workshop who agreed to swap the damaged body panels for new plus a small cash adjustment. Unbolting the old and bolting on the new body panels took less than an hour. Next was making shipping arrangements to Dubai. Back then Dubai had no restrictions on importing RH Drive vehicles or driving them on Dubai's roads. After a few weeks wait my "new" LandRover arrived in Port Rashid, Dubai. It was quickly cleared through Customs, registered and insured. Now I could go Wadi Bashing!

CLICK IMAGE to see more

  • ©Len Chapman
    Entering Wadi Assama
  • ©Len Chapman
  • ©Len Chapman
  • ©Len Chapman
    Looking down on Wadi Assama
  • ©Len Chapman
    Getting down was not so easy!
  • ©Len Chapman
    Traditional Falaj irrigation in Wadi Assama
  • ©Len Chapman
    Water Pools in Wadi Assama
  • ©Len Chapman
    Wadi Assama's sharp edged rocks make careful driving a necessity. Later Road Graders both widened Wadi Assama and made driving easier.
  • ©Len Chapman
    Gathering storm clouds meant we had to leave the Wadi urgently to avoid any Flash Flooding ad escape out onto the Plain.
  • ©Len Chapman
    Once there the rains came, flooding the Plain until water rose halfway up the Landrover's rear door.
  • ©Len Chapman
    By 1980s more moder $WD vehicle be came available making Wadi Bashing more accessible and comfortable although repairs were much more expensive.
  • ©Len Chapman
  • ©Len Chapman
  • ©Len Chapman
  • ©Len Chapman
    New tracks opened up as power lines and communication towers were installed across UAE.
  • Photo taken late evening as sun was setting. We only just made it out of Wadi Hatta before darkness fell.

Wadi Bashing & Traffic Jams in 80s & 90S

Overtime more 4WD vehicles became available - particularly Japanese imports. Their comfort and capabilities enabled more people to get off road to more places more easily. Slowly exploring changed to seeking secluded places where a group of friends and family could enjoy themselves. New roads eventually opened up Dubai's hinterland making places accessible by car previously reached only by 4WD. By the 1990s Wadi Bashing was something many people did, often in groups.

Increasing traffic in the Wadis, traffic hold ups at water crossings, road signs installed at the side of Wadi tracks and growing amounts of litter, both in and around the Wadis, took away some of the simple wonderment of Dubai's Wadis and Wadi Bashing. Latterly some of these tracks have become tarmac roads.