Rub al Khali, or Empty Quarter—a world of harsh extremes that may rank as both the least, and most, hospitable place on Earth. National geograghy jounerlist arrived in Arabia last January with photographer George Steinmetz and a plan to explore the Empty Quarter. Before our eight-week expedition is over, more than 5,300 miles (8,500 kilometers) on a journey through Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen will be covered.

Taking up a fifth of the Arabian Peninsula, the Rub al Khali known as literally, “quarter of emptiness, or the Sands for short, is the world’s largest sand sea. At more than 225,000 square miles (583,000 square kilometers), it takes in substantial portions of Saudi Arabia, as well as parts of Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates to create an arid wilderness larger than France. It holds roughly half as much sand as the Sahara, which is 15 times the Empty Quarter’s size but composed mostly of graveled plains and rocky outcrops.

Because of these sandy expanses, not to mention its profound heat, the Sands have long been judged too unforgiving for all but the most resourceful humans, considered more a wasteland to cross than a landscape to settle in. Still, along its edges—and venturing across it from time to time—the dozen tribes of leathery and enterprising Bedouin, also known (especially in Arabia) as Bedu, have survived here since before recorded time.

Dscover more Desert attractions in Oman

Beduin Trip at Wahiba sand.

We set off on our 4×4 car and drive to sharqiya to meet our Bedouin family living in the middle of the desert and enjoy their life from rearing goats and camels. A delicious home cooked meal prepared by the Bedouin family and evening of entertainment and take a short camel ride and view the sunset at top of the sand dune.

Modern tents and fresh bedding are provided for your overnight stay as you gaze up at the star-filled sky. Rising with the sun the next morning enjoy breakfast al fresco before making your way back to Muscat – if time permits stop en route to enjoy the water pools of a nearby wadi.

Desert and Wadi

A wonderful way to get a snap shot of Oman’s beautiful contrasts: mountains, desert and wadis, all in one day!.Surrounded by palm trees and oleander (green bushes with pink flowers), the wadi is the ideal place for a short walk to soak in the sounds and fragrances, dip your toes in the pools and see the fish swimming around. After the wadi, we weave our way through the small mountains to the sand dunes.

Experience the age old shifting sand dunes, imagine mirages in the distance and you might even see a camel or two. Enjoy the thrill of dune driving as we traverse the desert and come out on to the flat scrubland. Stop at a traditional restaurant for lunch.

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