Where I come from when you imagine Arabia, you picture desert. For that reason there was no way I was leaving Oman without spending a night somewhere in the desert. I had done my research and chosen a highly rated place 31 kms out of town. After all, the farther out the better, right? But upon calling we found out they were totally booked. With a heavy heart I looked up another place and we gave them a call. They had a double tent for us and as in so many cases, everything worked out for the best in the end. The guy on the phone said someone would meet us at the mosque just off the main road in Al-Wasil and we would drive convoy-style to Nomadic Desert Camp. We got to the meeting point early, as usual, and the guy at the tyre shop next door came over to let the air out of our tyres. We were excited but also nervous about our first time driving through the dunes. We were in a rental after all, and didn't want to get it stuck. The time arrived, so we followed Hamed into the Great sand Sea, yep that's what it's called, and no wonder! The path was pretty clear, but it didn't take long before you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. As we drove the sand got redder and there were fewer and fewer villagers to be seen.
The drive felt incredibly adventurous, and as the camp came into view we got more and more excited. It looked so small in the middle of the dunes, even though there were quite a few Bedouin-style tents and huts about. We had read this camp was run by a real Bedouin family and that it was the most traditional and rustic one remaining. Hamed announced there would be some serious dune driving before we settled in for some coffee and dates while the sun was setting. Not overly keen on dune bashing, we opted instead to head out into the dunes on foot. We had to walk quite a long way to escape the tracks made by the four-wheel-drives, but we finally found a perfect untouched dune and scrambled (ok, I may have crawled lol) up the steep dune to take some photos and then flopped down to watch the last of the sunset before heading back to camp.
Back at camp candles and lanterns had been placed around to provide light as there was no electricity. We were the first back (we found out later some of the vehicles had got bogged in the soft sand) so we went to the 'restaurant' to enjoy some mint tea. Dinner was at 7:30 and it consisted of tasty traditional food, like chicken and lamb, with hummus, salad and bread, and in traditional Bedouin style there was plenty for everyone! After dinner the musical instruments came out and there was dancing around the fire until 10pm. Exhausted, everyone went to bed and quiet prevailed - no cars, no cellphones, no TVs. That night as I made my way to the shared toilets, I looked up and marvelled at the sheer number of stars. So that's what the sky looks like without light pollution! I'm pretty lucky for star-gazing as I live in New Zealand, but these skies were far clearer - I believe it is the water (humidity) in the air in New Zealand which leaves it in Oman's wake.
The next morning the guys who run the camp were up early making traditional bread on the fire for our breakfast. We drove ourselves out after breakfast and I was sad to have the experience come to an end. Was it touristy? Of course, but what a privilege as an outsider to have the opportunity to peek inside a world so different than the one we live in.