Google Street View uses camels to map UAE’s Liwa Desert


Google, bastion of cool-tech, has gone Throwback Thursday in a major way – resorting to camels to capture its latest addition to Google Maps. Thanks to their “camel-cam”, you can now explore Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Oasis exactly as the Bedouin have done for centuries, without leaving home.

The Liwa Oasis is best known for its date plantations and was historically used as a trade center by early settlers. Ringed by sand dunes ranging from 82 to 131 feet high, it’s now an off-track tourist attraction.


The surrounding Liwa Desert holds evidence of occupation dating back to the late Stone Age; it’s of the oldest sites in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Google Maps Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi

The Google Maps blog describes this region of different-colored sands as “one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.” Liwa lies approximately 62 miles south of the Persian Gulf coast and 93 miles southwest of the city of Abu Dhabi in the Al Gharbia (Western) Region, on the northern edge of Rub’ al Khali desert. It sits around 23°08′N 53°46′E and stretches about 62 miles east-west, along an arch curved to the north.

Google Street view in the desert

Google Maps continually brings us to remote destinations such as the North Pole and Machu Picchu. Street View enables anyone with a computer to become a virtual Marco Polo. Typically, they capture panoramic images via specialized cameras mounted on cars or boats, but vast sand plains demand a different approach.


For the Liwa expedition, the Street View crew took its Trekker equipment and secured it to a camel. “Using camels for the collection allowed us to collect authentic imagery and minimize our disruption of this fragile environment,” the blog continued. Kudos for their environmental conscience.

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