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Empty Quarter

Oman's Empty Quarter is exactly what its name suggests: miles upon miles of empty desert terrain, the second-largest of its type on Earth. Known locally as "Rub' al Khali", the 250,000-square-mile area covers four countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. It was only mapped by Europeans 80 years ago, and was once described by T E Lawrence as 'the great unsolved question of geography'.

Although most of the desert is located in Saudi Arabia, a significant portion overlaps into Oman, stretching from the Dhofar region to Wusta and along to Al Dhahirah, which is where the famous Umm al Samim quicksands can be found. Comprising seemingly never-ending ripples of sand dunes, the area is yet to see any major development, and settlements are few and far between with just a handful of remote Bedouin villages located mostly towards the edge of the desert. Similarly, tourism in the area is yet to really take off, despite the undeniably beautiful landscape. That said, overnight trips do depart from the nearby city of Salalah, with local Bedu guides available for a more authentic experience.

Oman's Empty Quarter is exactly what its name suggests: miles upon miles of empty desert terrain, the second-largest of its type on Earth. Known locally as "Rub' al Khali", the 250,000-square-mile area covers four countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. It was only mapped by Europeans 80 years ago, and was once described by T E Lawrence as 'the great unsolved question of geography'.

Although most of the desert is located in Saudi Arabia, a significant portion overlaps into Oman, stretching from the Dhofar region to Wusta and along to Al Dhahirah, which is where the famous Umm al Samim quicksands can be found. Comprising seemingly never-ending ripples of sand dunes, the area is yet to see any major development, and settlements are few and far between with just a handful of remote Bedouin villages located mostly towards the edge of the desert. Similarly, tourism in the area is yet to really take off, despite the undeniably beautiful landscape. That said, overnight trips do depart from the nearby city of Salalah, with local Bedu guides available for a more authentic experience.

EXPERIENCES

EXPERIENCES

4x4 Off-Roading

Take the route east towards the Empty Quarter from Salalah and you’ll notice the paved tarmac roads slowly gets increasingly sandier, until you're eventually completely immersed by the desert dunes in every direction. The only way to tackle the fine golden grains is in a 4x4 vehicle, and the hilly terrain makes for some pretty fun driving… although motion sickness tablets might be a good idea as they can reach up to 1,000 foot in height.

Camping

The only real way to stay in this isolated desert is in camps; many opt to stay at some of the semi-permanent camp bases across the dunes, and others choose to pitch their own tents. Enjoying an alfresco evening dinner and drinks as the deep red sun sinks below the dunes is an experience to savored, and don’t forget to set your alarm the following morning to catch the spectacular sunrise over the horizon in the east.

Trekking

Using campsites as a base, some visitors choose to explore on foot, but be warned: temperatures in the daytime can reach onwards of 110 F°. The best way to do some trekking is to keep trips short and sweet, leaving early in the morning or late evening to avoid the scorching temperatures, making the most of the stunning dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Umm al Samim Quicksands

A thing of nightmares for some, this well-known area of quicksand is found towards the eastern edge of the Empty Quarter desert in Oman, close to the Yemeni border. The sinking sands are formed by a low-lying basin which fills the ground with moisture and then drains it back after it becomes saturated.

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Musandam Peninsula
Northern Oman

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TRAVELOGUES

TRAVELOGUES

Sands of Time: In Search of the Old UAE

Sands of Time: In Search of the Old UAE

Author : Jay Tindall
After spending some time in the most infamous of UAE cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I felt it time to take a better look at what lays outside these soaring modern landscapes and see if I could discover some worlds of old.
Read More
Landscapes of Oman

Landscapes of Oman

Author : Remote Lands
Outside the walls of the more frequently-visited city of Muscat are some enticing destinations, waiting to be discovered
Read More

EXCLUSIVE JOURNEYS

EXCLUSIVE JOURNEYS

Aman Global Private Jet Expedition

Aman Global Private Jet Expedition

Japan - China - Vietnam - Thailand - Bhutan - India
April 15 - May 6, 2018
Aman Private Jet Expedition

Aman Private Jet Expedition

China - Bhutan - India - Sri Lanka
October 7-23, 2018
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