Wahiba Sands: A Walk in the Omani Desert

Field Journal

Empty Quarters

Heading south into a sea of never-ending sand, civilization vanished in our rear-view mirror. Even the sight of semi-nomadic camel herders grew faint as our SUV hummed by at a breakneck pace.  

Now, the only view out of our bug-smattered windshield was the emptiness of the vast open desert and all of its golden glory. 

Surrounded by nothing but open sky and the desert’s martian landscape, it was only us and swathes of sand dunes, as far as the eye can see. 

As for our camp site, there’s no trail or road to follow, not even a cell phone signal for GPS… just map coordinates, a trusty compass, and the aid of natural landmarks. 

For us, getting lost or even a flat tire here, isn’t an option. Just to reach anyone else, it’ll take a couple days of trekking under the unforgiving and scorching Arabian sun. 

With a long trail of dust lingering in the air behind our SUV, the dunes finally opened up into a wide yellow basin bathed in the oppressive heat of the sun’s rays.

A bit further down from our SUV, we land upon our home for the next couple days – two canvas tents that house only us and our Bedouin guide. 

These rustic grounds, which have beautifully been set up, are a dramatic contrast from our previous night of camping on the isolated beach of Ras al Jinz.

Once we settled in, I reached for my Coulee 25 and loaded it with 2L of water and another 2L of coconut water, as we planned on walking for a few hours in the direct sun. 

Leaving our Earth Runners behind, we opted to walk barefoot in the desert’s soft silty sand. And as we carried on, our feet were the only imprints and the only signs of life around us – outside of the occasional scorpion. Step by step, we walked for hours over a countless number of rolling sand dunes, varying from deep red to a rich golden-honey color. 

With each step our feet would sink into the ground and its gritty texture would cling against our skin. For better or worse, being barefoot forced us to be present in the moment and carefully calculate our projected path. 

As tempted as we were to look down and plan out all of our steps one-by-one, we were ultimately seduced by the kaleidoscope of colors forming in the evening sky. 

Within minutes, the sun began to set over the vista before us.

At first, there was a faded orange hue that blended effortlessly across the expansive horizon. Shortly afterward, the entire sky turned cotton-candy pink, contrasted only by the shadow covered desert underneath.

In a state of deep contentment, we sat in silence… watching the colors dissipating, the sky darkening, and the moon rising. 

With the sun now resting below the horizon, we walked back to our camp site in the silence of the dark. Thankfully, the moon was bright enough to naturally lighten our way back to the safety of our tent.  

Overall, the simplistic bliss of pure silence and the pollutionless view of the stars made our desert walk worth the risk. It’s an experience that’ll be forever etched into our memories and a level of tranquility that we’ll always crave. 

Our Insights

Useful information

#1 If you want to experience the peacefulness and silence of the desert, avoid the touristy “desert camps.” They’re too close to civilization and will be full of other people.

#2 Oman is expensive… you can save money on a trip into Wahiba Sands by booking with a local Bedouin guide in Bediyah. Make sure they have a sturdy canvas tent for you, rather than bring your own. The desert sun is harsh and could cause UV damage to a nylon tent’s fabric (which is unrepairable) and the sand could easily clog up a lightweight zipper. 

#3 You’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to drive in the desert. In Bediyah, any of the gas stations will lower the air pressure in your tires (to the optimal level) for a small tip. Remember to drive fast over the sand… for driving tips, click here

#4 The desert gets cold at night. Make sure to bring a lightweight fleece, merino base layers, a beanie, and some gloves. A thermoregulating liner is also a useful piece of kit for staying warm while sleeping – plus, its incredibly packable.

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