Miles and miles of gently rolling dunes as far as the eye can see, a scorching sun, replaced by a bright starry night after the sunset. No traffic, no buildings, no noise. There is only the ruthless nature and the small camp, surrounded by pure silence. To get here, you have to drive some twenty kilometers of unmarked paths across a terrain filled with sand dunes. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. This is Wahiba Sands desert, in the middle of Oman.
If I had only been allowed to choose one thing I wanted to experience on our trip to Oman, it would have been a night in the desert. Looking back, it was also undoubtedly the best experience on the trip.
From Muscat, our journey continued down south, to a little village of Al Wasil, some 2hours drive from the capital. We parked our rental car on a remote gas station, where we were greeted by a driver who would take us to the camp. In theory, we could’ve driven to the camp ourselves, but decided against it after finding out the road to the camp was not signed nor paved. We wanted to get in and out of the camp safe, not get lost in the desert without cellphone coverage.
After a twenty minute drive, we arrived at our camp. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the staff who led us to the open-walled huge tent that served as a living room. As we sat down on the pillows, we were served some coffee, dates and oranges – what a wonderful way to start your stay in the desert!
The camp was modest, but extremely clean, cozy and beautiful, just like we had hoped for. Although we are talking about a camp, this was the kind where rooms had solid rock walls, air-conditioning and a hot shower. Of course, we could have chosen a more modest tent-accommodation, but a soft bed and running water were a winning combination this time, although most probably less authentic.
As the sun started setting and the evening begun to cool down, we head towards the adjacent dune, where we were told we’d have the best sunset views of the area. Of course we could have also chosen to go camel riding in the sunset, or go dune bashing with 4x4s, but this time, we felt sorry for the camels and the dune bashing did not feel that exciting as you are not allowed to drive yourself.
What looked like a small dune looking from the camp, turned out to be quite a challenge when we started our climb. With every step you took, the sand beneath your feet gave in just enough to make you go forward, but only a few inches with each step. It really did not take long before I was out of breath taking those painfully heavy steps in the sand. Although the sun was already setting, it was still painfully hot and the ruthless sun did make the climbing uncomfortable. It was a good reminder why you really do not want to get lost in the desert!
But once at the top, it was easy to put the agony behind as we looked around us – miles and miles of sandy dunes and the setting sun painting the sand red. The Hajar mountains far away in the horizon. While I was trying to align my breathing and stop sounding like a steam engine, I swore to myself that this would be the only time I’d climb up, no matter how great the views were. Little did I know at that point that I’d actually end up climbing back up not once, but twice within the next 12 hours.
The second time was after the sun had set and the starry night appeared. The third time was to witness the sunset. And they were both worth it. Three times up the dunes, three totally different experiences. On the first time I was in awe by the views that were like nothing I had seen before – after all, this was my very first time on a proper desert. Seeing the sun set in the horizon, the red sky and the red dunes surely were an amazing sight. But at nighttime, it was even better. With a clear, starry sky, when you are lying on the sand dune, watching the shooting stars, you really understand how small you actually are in the universe. Lying there, remembering that it had only been a few days since I was in Dubai, witnessing the insane city, it felt like I was in a totally different world.
In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, the cold desert sand felt rather refreshing under the bare feet as we climbed up, once again. This time, the whole experience was just beautiful. The silence and dawn, sky slowly lighting up around the rising sun. I really could not imagine a better way to start the day in Oman than to sit in silence, watching the sun rise in total silence in the middle of the desert.
We stayed in the camp for only one night, which was enough for us. During that day we had time to climb the dunes three times, as well as to admire the sunset and sunrise, and to sit for hours under a clear starry sky. We had time to eat well, sit on the patio, listening to the sounds of nature, reading, and enjoying the tranquility. Here, there are no distractions, there is no internet and barely any cellphone coverage. Here there is just you and your thoughts, surrounded by silence and a lot of sand. Might sound like a boring way to some, but for me, a day in the desert was a very unique experience, something I surely will not forget anytime soon.