Desert Dreams in the Empty Quarter

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 into the desert. After all, the farther in 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 and we followed Hamed into the desert. The path was pretty clear, but it didn't take long before you felt you were in the middle of nowhere. As we drove the sand got redder and there were fewer and fewer villages to be seen.
Our Bedouin Camp

Our Bedouin Camp

Eleven kilometres in we came to the camp. It looked so small in the middle of the dunes, even though there were quite a few Bedouin style tents and huts. We had read this camp was run by a Bedouin family and that it was the most traditional and rustic one. Hamed announced there would be some dune driving before having coffee and dates while watching the sunset. Not overly keen on dune bashing, we opted instead to head out into the dunes on foot. We had to walk quite a ways to escape the tracks made by four-wheel-drives but we finally found a perfect untouched dune and scrambled (ok, I may have crawled) up the steep dune to take some photos and then flop down to watch the sunset before heading back to camp.
The dunes at sunset

The dunes at sunset

Back at camp candles and lanterns had been placed around to provide light as there is no electricity there. We were the first back (we found out later some of the vehicles got bogged in the soft sand) so we headed to the 'restaurant' to enjoy some mint tea. Dinner was at 7:30 and it consisted of some tasty traditional food, and in traditional Bedouin style there was plenty for everyone! After dinner the traditional instruments came out and there was music and dancing around the fire until 10pm. Everyone went to bed and a quiet prevailed - no cars, no cellphones, no TVs. That night as I headed 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! 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 peak inside a world so different than the one we live in.
Our tent for the night

Our tent for the night

Tea, coffee, water and 'desert wine' freely available

Tea, coffee, water and 'desert wine' freely available

Tribal men making the bread for breakfast

Tribal men making the bread for breakfast

Sunrise in camp over the dunes

Sunrise in camp over the dunes