of western Oman
a very special kind of holiday experience far removed from the recreational
and leisurely comforts of the usual run-of-the mill holiday, consider
visiting the sprawling sand-seas of western Oman. These desert expanses
sweep all the way from the edges of the Empty Quarter in the south
to Lekhwair in the north, in what is largely uncharted territory traversed
for centuries only by the intrepid Bedu and, in recent years, oil
exploration companies. In fact trekking through the splendid emptiness
of these desert regions is an experience in itself an experience
reserved only for the seasoned, adventure-minded traveller who seeks
to enjoy nature in all its pristine beauty.
trip starts at Thumrait in Dhofar Governorate, close to the fringes
of the great Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter). Travelling in a north-westerly
direction you come to Fasad, about 104km from Thumrait, where the
landscape is dotted by towering sand dunes spread out singly, quite
unlike the dunes of the Wahiba Sands which are laid in a north-to-south
pattern. In the light of the setting sun, the surrounding desertscape
turns a glorious golden hue in what is a truly breathtaking sight.
Avoid venturing deeper into the expanses of the Rub al Khali, where
you risk getting lost amid the labyrinthine sand dunes covering the
from Fasad to Al Mashash, close to the border with Saudi Arabia, can
be equally treacherous as the shifting dunes obscure all tracks and
the sandy terrain makes progress generally difficult. Nevertheless,
you can savour the stark splendour of the desert landscape en route.
Some 15km north of Al Mashash is Al Hafrah (now called Banadar al
Dhebyan), a tiny Bedu settlement located close to the Saudi border.
The deputy wali of the wilayat now has an office in this village.
The trail twists northwards to Ramlat Maqshan, traversing wind-blown
dunes along a 60km route.
this point you can either proceed north to Sahmah through trackless
terrain, or opt for a safer route through Haima. The desert area beyond
Sahmah is served by a network of well-defined routes used by oil company
vehicles. You can drive 155km north to Umutubul, which is an interesting
place to explore. Camels thrive in these parts, thanks to the rich
desert flora here, which turns especially lush after a spell of rains.
Brackish water springs abound in this area as well.Kheelah, close
to the Saudi border, is your next destination as you sweep northwards
through this trackless desertscape.
route traverses the picturesque Um as Samim desert, a shimmering sand-sea
covered with white salt. This sprawling lowland receives run-off from
the great wadis that come all the way from the Interior and Dhahirah
regions, leaving behind a veneer of salt as the water evaporates.
The area is also dotted by sand dunes. While exploring these spectacular
landscapes, beware driving through slushy areas that may result in
your vehicle getting stuck. The authorities have fenced off many of
these areas for the protection of the local Bedu folk and others passing
through these parts.
adventure-tour ends 118km north at Lekhwair, an important oilfield
town located close to the UAE border. There are sand dunes here that
invite discovery. You can return to Muscat via Ibri, which is about
110km from Lekhwair. Before beginning a tour of these sand-seas, it
is advisable to intimate the police authorities about your travel
plans in these frontier areas. Furthermore, ensure you are well equipped
to tackle every conceivable eventuality that may arise while exploring
these remote, desolate regions.
in a convoy of at least three or four 4WDs, each certified as capable
of enduring the harsh conditions of the desert. Pack two extra wheels
per vehicle, and throw in a winch and towing rope, battery charger
jacks, portable air pumps, first aid kits, and lots of fuel and water.
Detailed maps of these areas, GPS systems, mobile phones (and satellite
phones, if possible) are a must as well. Lastly, make sure there is
an expert driver at the wheel with particular experience in desert
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for errors.