Into the Desert: Adventure in Oman’s deserts

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The Sultanate’s two main expanses of desert – the Sharqiyah Sands, and the famous Rub al Khali or ‘Empty Quarter’ – are intricately linked to the history and tradition and culture of Oman’s desert people – the Bedouin. These days, visitors to the Sultanate can get a feel for what this traditional Bedouin way of life was like in days gone by – and they can also experience some modern-day desert adventures. Here’s a look at what awaits the desert explorer in Oman.

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Four-wheel-drive desert adventure

There are a number of four-wheel-drive desert tours now available in the Sultanate – usually done with highly experienced and knowledgeable guides. But the highlight four-wheel-drive experience is an exploration of the famous Rub Al Khali, the ‘Empty Quarter’, in southern Oman. A tour here will have you exploring gigantic red and gold sand dunes, salt flats and oases, and you get to feel the sensation of being surrounded by deafening silence and sand, as the Bediyah Safari Tours group describes it. Rub Al Khali is one of the most stunning environments on earth – as well as a photographer’s dream destination.

Overnight with a Bedouin family

One of the classic desert experiences for visitors to the Sultanate is spending a night or two with a Bedouin family who still go about their nomadic, self-sustainable lifestyle in the traditional way. During this time, you will be required to live and exist exactly as these Bedouin do, and in turn, you will gain a deep insight into their way of life. At the 1000 Nights Camp in Sharqiyah Sands, for instance, you can arrange to visit a Bedouin family along with a guide and experience traditional Bedouin hospitality just for the day as well. The experience includes drinking traditional Omani ‘kahwa’ coffee; and a desert trek with a locally-based Bedouin guide.

Oman: A legendary land of deserts

The Sultanate of Oman is home to two vast, sandy desert regions. The smaller of the two is the Sharqiyah Sands Desert in the eastern part of Oman, which runs in a north to south direction for around 200 kilometres, and is easily accessible by road from Muscat. The second desert region is the massive expanse of the Rub Al Khali or ‘Empty Quarter’, which is the largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, and much of Oman. To find out more about exploring Oman’s deserts, visit www.omantourism.gov.om.

Luxury desert retreat

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Traditional nomadic ways of life in the desert are often associated with hard and sparse living conditions. But this is not the case at establishments like the prestigious Desert Nights Camp. Based in Sharqiyah Sands, this is where you can indulge in luxury Bedouin-style tents and enjoy a lavish existence in the desert. Air-conditioned luxury tents, cold towels to refresh yourself with, en-suite bathrooms, and a comfortable Omani-styled majilis sitting room are all part of the package. And in the evenings, you can ‘drift into magical nights and feast on traditional Omani fare in the flickering glow of the campfire,’ say your Desert Nights hosts.

Camel safari

A traditional camel safari is a magnificent way to explore Oman’s deserts, and the rich culture and traditions that go with these landscapes. Various camel riding adventures can be arranged while staying at establishments like the luxury Desert Nights Camp, and the exotic 1000 Nights Camp, both based in Sharqiyah Sands. Daily rides are typically around 4 to 5 hours long, with plenty of opportunities to hop off your ride and rest and relax. ‘Camel riding is effortless and you’ll very soon be completely at ease on these Kings of the Desert,’ say the Bediyah Safari Tours group, who also offer camel safaris. Authentic Bedouin luxury camps will be pitched every night after the riding, and delicious, traditional food and Omani ‘Kahwa’ coffee will be prepared on a fire, under the stars. ‘Afterwards, delicious traditional food and Omani ‘Kahwa’ coffee will be prepared on a fire, under the stars’

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