Sharqiyah Sands

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experience the desert first hand

Bij de Ash Sharqiyah-woestijn kunnen de bezoekers de woestijn zelf ervaren, met duinen zo ver als het oog rijkt en een omgeving rijk aan fauna. ‘Dune bashing’, oftewel met een terreinwagen over de zandduinen crossen, is een van de vele favoriete activiteiten.

The Sharqiya Sands is a unique and beautiful habitat slowly opening up to students and travellers. Now a new institute of outdoor learning is aiming to help people understand and conserve one of the greatest sand deserts on the planet

The Sharqiya Sands used to be one of the most inaccessible parts of Oman. Today you can reach them in a less than two-hour’s drive from the capital city of Muscat, on a modern, three-lane highway. And there is now a growing adventure travel industry in the northern periphery of the sands; employment opportunities have been created for the local Bedouin people, and local handicrafts are kept alive in what is a narrow winter window, when temperatures drop to single digits at night.

Despite the new road, the sands remain one of those unique, increasingly scarce, silent places where mobile phones don’t work, and where there is little evidence of human activity beyond the local Bedouin community.

As such, the desert, previously known as the Wahiba Sands and recently renamed the Sharqiya Sands, provides an ideal platform for Outward Bound Oman, the only Outward Bound school in any Arabic-speaking nation to run wilderness courses each winter, when temperatures drop to a tolerable level. Mostly young Omanis attend multi-day courses where you sleep out under the stars by night, and by day travel on foot, or by camel. They learn key life skills needed to enter the world of work, while increasing their awareness of and connectivity to the environment.

With the support of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Al Said, ruler of Oman, the completion of Oman’s first purpose-built centre of outdoor learning was formally celebrated in Muscat on 1 October by HRH Prince Andrew, Chairman of the Trustees of The Outward Bound Trust in the UK, and His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Culture and Heritage in Oman. Located some 12km into the sand sea, it is the first of three such outdoor learning centres that will be constructed in the next two years.