Destination: Sharqiyah Sands

05 Jan 2017
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

Pulling a car out of the mud was a crisis to overcome but Shaquel al Balushi and his friends proved up to the challenge.

To head deep into the desert and to camp under the stars has always been something special for me. As now is the best time of year for camping in Oman, my friends and I chose Wahiba Sands for a weekend trip.

As you all know, the first rule of the desert is to have a four-wheel drive. It’s also best to let some air out of your tyres if you’re planning to go deep into the dunes, and you should never go alone.

We chose Bidiya in Sharqiyah Sands, formerly known as Wahiba Sands, for this week’s Destination.

The area is defined by a boundary of 180 kilometres north to south and 80 kilometres east to west with a total area of 12,500 square kilometres.

We were supposed to meet at Al Koudh at around 4pm on Thursday evening so I began my journey from my home in Amerat after 3pm.

Unfortunately, a couple of our team members were not able to keep their promise to be at our meeting point on time so the rest of us began our journey without them. The missing two joined us later on the trip.

Imran, my regular travel buddy, and Badr, a chef, were travelling with me. I was under the impression that we could reach our destination in an hour-and-a-half but our ride took longer than that.

The 37km long, curvy road in Wadi Al Aqq is a bit risky as it is a one-lane road on which drivers can be a bit rash when tackling it. Therefore, it’s better to drive on this road during daytime. However, there will be a new expressway here soon, which is bound to make driving to the area
a whole lot easier.

It was a very dark and foggy afternoon. Therefore, we had to keep a fair amount of distance between each vehicle and put our hazard warning lights on. Unfortunately, one of our friends in our convoy didn’t follow the hazard lights and got his vehicle stuck in a puddle of mud.

The worse thing was that we had forgotten to bring the tow-rope, which can be helpful in pulling vehicles out from the mud, and we had to borrow one from some other campers. It certainly took a fair amount of time out of our trip.

As we had reached our destination by night there wasn’t much exploring to be done so we set about putting up our tents under torch light.

Lighting up the fire in the fog was a fairly time-consuming task.  After that we unpacked our things and cooked burgers and lamp chops. We also had cheese, Lebanese bread, hot sauce and Omani chips.

I went to my tent early as I wanted to be up early for the light.

As I woke up, the sun’s rays poured onto this beautiful part of the universe. The mist started to fade and the sun became much more visible. The vehicles were completely covered with dew and, because of the moisture, I had to drop the photoshoot as the dew drops would have damaged my lens.

From a photographic viewpoint, I’ve always enjoyed the types of images we can capture in the desert. The sand and sky offer great contrasts. At night, when the stars come out, the view can be breathtaking, especially when there aren’t any clouds and there is a little moonlight.

After that we had some eggs and bread for breakfast. Then I went for a walk to get some pictures. I tried to 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.

The dunes radiated a distinctive orange hue, and seemed to stretch for kilometres.

One thing I love in places like this is the feeling of isolation. There is something quite liberating about being unable to get a mobile phone signal.

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 strong sense of attachment and belonging.

How To Get There?

From Muscat, take Route 15 and just after passing Fanja, take  Route 23 at the Shell service station and follow the signs to Bidiyah, where you will begin to see the dunes of Sharqiya Sands.

GPS location:

N22°06’08.4”; E58°45’33.5”

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