Part of complete coverage on
Bored of F1 and NASCAR? Try dune bashing, the UAE's extreme motorsport
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0220 GMT (1020 HKT)
- Dune bashing is an action-packed motor sport popular in the Gulf
- A hundred sand dune competitors raced to the top of Tel Moreeb, the tallest sand hill in the UAE
- The 30-meter-high "Scary Hill" earns its name thanks to the dizzyingly 50-degree steep slope
(CNN) -- If you think drag racing is extreme, you should try doing it uphill and on sand.
Dune bashing is an action-packed motorsport popular in the Gulf, enjoyed by both local Emiratis and foreign tourists alike.
It is not for the fainthearted and accidents are not uncommon. It is a sport that enthusiasts say requires not only speed and power, but also nerves of steel.
Perhaps nothing tests all of these better than the Liwa International Festival, which ended last month, where 100 dune-bashing competitors battled it out to be the fastest up the tallest sand hill in the UAE.
For me, it's normal because I'm Bedouin. This is not scaring me
From desert to millionaires' paradise
The 30-meter-high "Scary Hill" (Tel Moreeb in Arabic) earns its name thanks to the dizzyingly 50-degree steep slope.
Risking your life for precious pearls
Meet Dubai's singing migrant workers
The government-funded festival is claimed to be a celebration of the desert landscape and the Bedouin culture. One competitor who shrugged off the fear factor at the recent event was Ahmed Al-Mashgouni of Team Sandtoyz. "For me, it's normal because I'm Bedouin," he said. "This is not scaring me."
The annual event also features a classic car show, as well as traditional sports such as falcon, camel and horse racing. But this year it was the dune-racing challenges that attracted most attention, with spectators and participants coming from across the region.
Read more: Bollywood dreams of Dubai's migrant workers
Al-Mashgouni had an American mechanic to tune his buggies. His roaring, six-cylinder vehicles, with modified, turbo-charged engines, were the fruit of his travels around the region -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait -- that brought back homemade, sometimes crudely built, bikes and buggies.
"We are using a two-speed transmission," said Al-Mashgouni, winner of his class in the latest tournament. "The normal one is one speed. It's especially built for us."
In contrast, Jasem Al-Ali of Team Victory learned how to build his vehicle from online videos. "It was a 200-horsepower engine. Now it's 1,100 horsepower," he said.
Sand dune racing is not a cheap hobby. The cars are built mostly with foreign parts. And even in this oil-rich region, the fuel needs to be imported from America.
Salem Al-Dahmani's modified truck cost him $100,000 -- about ten times the modest prize the race awarded. But passion not money is motivation for the competitors.
"If you go to Japan, people are crazy for drifting," said Al-Dahmani of Team Champions. "If you go to the U.S., people are crazy about drag racing. Here, we're crazy about this sport."
Read more: Dinosaurs in the desert
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
November 5, 2014 -- Updated 0346 GMT (1146 HKT)
Robot dinosaurs, Lego men and Spider-Man all could become Dubai's newest residents.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
Not long ago camel milk was an unfancied staple, the preserve of Bedouin herders. Now its becoming a luxury.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
Managing over 2 million people during the Hajj takes some serious technology.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
More needs to be done so women from Saudi Arabia can become world champions in sports.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Is nothing sacred? How tech allows narcissism to run riot.
From the waters of the Persian Gulf a new mega museum is emerging.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Where better to start a record-breaking solar powered flight than the desert?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Ahmed Eldin is the 18-year-old behind the prog-rock band's new album cover. Shine on you crazy diamond.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0206 GMT (1006 HKT)
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0302 GMT (1102 HKT)
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?