02/07/2009 05:22 PM By Anjana Sankar, Senior Reporter Dubai:
The mystical beauty and marvel of the Arabian desert was uncovered as the 28th Gulf News Friday Fun Drive treated participants to a rich outdoor experience on Friday.More than 2,000 participants, young and old, braved the cold weather to drive over vast expanses of sand, arriving at The Sevens as early as 6am. The convoy of more than 450 cars nudged through the morning fog as Duleep George, Executive Director, Marketing and Sales, Gulf News, flagged off the leading vehicle. Adrenalin rush The Al Futtaim–Toyota sponsored Fun Drive offered the ultimate adrenalin rush to participants even as the stomach-churning dune drives left a couple of unlucky vehicles stuck in the sand. But the camaraderie and team-work among patrons and marshals ensured everyone drove on safely. Asif Ahmad, a regular at the Gulf News Fun Drive, said the event is a great opportunity to get together with friends and have a lot of fun outdoors. What makes the experience more enjoyable is the immaculate planning that goes into organising the event, he added. “The markings, the route maps, communication control — everything was faultless and hence there was no need to worry, even for inexperienced drivers,” Asif said. Challenging A skilled driver himself, Asif commented that the track set by Gulf News every year is challenging. He advised first-timers to take time out to get some training from friends. Andrew and his team, who got stuck in the sand twice, said the beauty of the Fun Drive is all about getting stuck while taking on the dunes. “It is nice to try some escapades like driving on top of a 200-metre sand dune and sliding down. When you are on your own you tend to be a little cautious because you do not want to get stranded. But with the Gulf News marshals around, you tend to be over-confident,” admitted Andrew. However, marshal Naidal Ali advises drivers not to attempt stunts and stick to the rules. “This is not a rally. This is a fun drive and one should soak in the experience,” he suggested. A Gulf News marshal for more than 12 years, Naidal feels it is more fun to be a marshal than a participant. Naidal’s brother, Mohammad, who took on the mantle of marshal this year, shares the same sentiment. “It is nice to help people. Sometimes, you feel good when people cry out for help to you,” he said. Experience Children as young as three years had their share of the desert experience as many families brought their little ones along for a day of fun and frolic. Erin, Fern and Flaii, aged 14, 11 and 4 respectively, were thrilled about the experience. The cousins from Sharjah have been regulars at the Fun Drive for the last few years and consider it an amazing experience. “I got to see the desert closely and my dad did take us over the turns and curves of dunes,” said an excited Erin. Duleep George said the teamwork paid off as everything went as planned. “The main success factor is that every single part of the organisation took active interest in making The Gulf News Fun Drive happen. “The fact that we were full up within the first few hours of opening the registration makes all our trouble worthwhile,” he said.