Half Desert Road, Dubai’s Sand-Covered Streets

One of the partially sand-covered roads of Dubai’s Half Desert

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since the dawn of human civilization, nature and mankind have been at odds with each other as the latter’s appetite for resources and expansionism seems to be insatiable. One testament for humanity’s futile attempt to overcome the sheer forces of nature can be found in a desolate corner of Dubai. Tucked away in the outskirt of the city, Half Desert is an abandoned network of roads which has been encroached by the surrounding dunes for the past decade or so, offering a myriad of surreal sights to awe at.

With roughly 80 percent of its surface area covered by desert, the United Arab Emirates has been engaged in a perpetual battle against the ever-expanding sand dunes. There is probably no better place to witness the ongoing struggle between the Emiratis and their unforgiving environment than Dubai’s Half-Desert Road.


Ensconced in a sandy wasteland, about 20 kilometers southeast of the city’s sleek downtown, this cluster of undrivable lanes is steeped in mystery, with little to no information available about its original purpose. As its name suggests, Half-Desert comprises multiple parallel roads which are in turn connected by a series of roundabouts, all of which are either partially or entirely buried under a thick layer of windblown sand.


In recent years, the place has a become a quirky tourist attraction thanks to its somewhat post-apocalyptic appearance. This influx of curious onlookers has resulted in a rather bizarre and distasteful trend, where drone-captured photos are being edited to faslely look as if Dubai’s iconic skyline is clearly visible from this mid-desert location (hint: it’s not). Be that as it may, even without the distant glimpse of Burj Khalifa, one can still marvel at the semi-submerged streets with their traffic poles jutting out from the gilded sand.


Visitors who wish to explore this semi-natural oddity can access it through the E611 highway. Take note that while some parts of Half Desert Road are fit for driving, doing so without a 4X4 vehicle entails the risk of getting mired in the sand.