The remote majesty and towering dunes of Sharqiya Sands captivate Shaquel al Balushi
Growing up in Amerat, the mountains were like my playground. I felt at home scrambling up and over the rocks, often coming home with cuts and scrapes but with a smile on my face.
The desert is a different environment entirely, but I have always felt an affinity with the sand; I think it’s a strong part of who we are as Omanis. I have ventured into Sharqiya Sands several times in the past, but I thought it was high time I visited from a professional perspective for one of our Destination pieces.
From a photographic viewpoint, I’ve always enjoyed the types of images you can capture in the desert. The sand and sky offer great contrasts. At night, when the stars come out to play, the view can be breathtaking especially when there are no clouds and there is a little moonlight.
As my third destination of the day, following Mrkhah Park and Wadi Bani Khalid, my cousin and I didn’t arrive at the desert’s fringes until 4pm. This was probably a good thing because we had missed the hottest part of the day and the warm light made for some favourable photography conditions.
The first rule of the desert is that you must have a four-wheel drive to enter. It’s also best to let some air out of your tyres and if you’re planning to go deep into the dunes, never go alone.
The first thing we did was to park the car and climb to the top of a high dune to get an overview of our surroundings. It made for a good photo opportunity, but it was incredibly tough to get there. Walking on sand often feels like you’re going nowhere fast despite putting in twice the effort. I purposely kept our shadows in the photo to give some perspective.
The dunes have a distinctive orange hue and stretch for kilometres. The feeling of isolation is one thing I love about the desert. Whenever I do pieces such as this one, I always feel free from urban living and modern life. However, this trip to Sharqiya Sands took this feeling of freedom to another level.
As the sun began to set, shadows came into play, which brought the pictures alive as the bumpy dunes took on a 3D effect.
We saw camels ambling around their natural habitat as well as Bedouins going about their business in pickup trucks. Vegetation is understandably sparse, but I managed to capture a lone tree as well as the bleached bones of an animal; I’m guessing an unlucky camel or goat.
I see the desert as a symbol of who we are as a country. It’s a strong part of our culture just as the mountains are. When I go there I always feel a sense of attachment and belonging.
My cousin often ventures into the desert on his off-road bike. With my recent visit reigniting my passion for the sand, you can be sure that I’ll soon be accompanying him.
The best way to get to Sharqiya Sands is through Bidiyah. From Muscat, take Route 15 and take the turning for Route 23 after Bidbid. Stay on this road all the way to Bidiyah, where you can enter the desert at several points.
GPS location of Bidiyah: N22° 27’ 7.078” E58° 48’ 39.657”