It was a sunny afternoon when I discovered Beauty. I had considered three elements, the turbulent seas, the star studded unending skies and the imposing mountains as the most awe inspiring wonders I had ever known. That day I discovered the fourth. It was the hauntingly starved desert. I had seen the desert on television, the biggest it got for me was 32’’. When I saw the Wahiba Sands desert at Oman, I discovered another facet of nature previously unknown to me.
We were picked up at Muscat by our tour guide in a 4 wheel drive. I had no idea what was in store when we left the road and entered the sandy desert.
The Wahiba Sands desert was as vaster than I could see, more beautiful than I had imagined it to be. There was so much sand everywhere. Humongous stretches of ceaseless sand were interspersed with shrubs that looked ravaged by the blazing sun. I saw Sand that had built itself into mammoth dunes which looked more like mountains to me, Sand that was so fine that it felt like water in my hands, Sand that formed beautiful waves styled by the wind, Sand which changed colors from red to white to brown as we changed course in the desert and Slippery Sands on which Camels walked on with ease. I was enthralled completely by the beauty of the whole vista.
The Wahiba Sands is a popular desert destination at Oman with several camping facilities and tours that organize camps deep into the desert. Many of these are even luxury camps with almost all with running water and some with even a swimming pool! To maintain the ethnicity though, a well thought out cultural program with dances, local cooking etc. is often organized too. We had booked ourselves with one such camp and thoroughly enjoyed the royal treatment.
As we entered, the camp, our senses feasting on the beauty in the bareness, we were treated to refreshing ‘zatar’ tea. We later went ‘dune bashing’ or ‘wadi bashing’ on 50–200 m high sand dunes which was quite thrilling.
The desert that is scorching by day is chilly by night. As the lights grew dim, we washed for dinner and settled in the open area for the cultural program. After dinner, we started star gazing and there were oh, so many stars! The city smoke and fog allows us to see hardly any stars. Deep in the desert, the dark velvety sky was bejeweled with these a massive number of these bright starry embellishments. We star-gazed for several hours trying to figure out the few basic constellations we knew. Far away from civilization, we could see nothing but pitch darkness outside the vicinity of the camp.
We awoke in the spacious tent-room in the desert to a very dewy and chilly morning. A quick breakfast later we were on our way home. It was fascinating to see so many camels out there in the middle of nowhere. We made a halt at one of the local Bedouin people’s homes at the fringe of the desert. Although the Bedouin people or the residents of the desert now have access to the latest amenities, many still lead their lives near the desert, owning herds of camels, or through tourism.
The way back to Muscat was another visual treat on the Sur-Muscat highway which is a coastal road for a long patch. With bare mountains on one side and the sea on the other, it was hard not to stop at every scenic spot we saw! All in all, a fantastic trip which revealed to us a new element of nature we were hitherto unaware of.