The world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass is Rub Al Khali, which is also known as The Empty Quarter. It will blow you away with massive expanses of desert and enormous dunes.
It’s a landscape of ever-changing and endless dunes, which were made famous by the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger and his Emirati and Omani companions in the 1940s and 50s.
Almost a fairytale from ‘1001 nights’, the magnificent Mirage Palace is a luxurious oasis in the midst of the desert. Reminiscent of an old Arabian fortress town nestled in the valley of mountainous dunes, it is actually a five-star resort letting you experience lots of desert activities, such as dune dawn walks, camel trekking, dune bashing, falconry shows and campfire barbeques.
Balanced at the edge of the majestic Rub Al Khali, Tilal Al Liwa is a stunningly secluded desert hideaway, which hosts an array of restaurants, a sparkling outdoor pool, and a full range of desert activities.
Considered by many to be the world’s tallest sand dune, Tel Moreeb is over 300 metres high and the 50-degree incline to the top makes it a prime destination for motorsports enthusiasts. Every winter, the region’s most powerful four wheel drivers and quad bikers participate in the Moreeb Hill Climb event, which is part of the Liwa International Festival.
Today, giant dunes as high as 250 meters (800 feet), not pools of water, are the hallmark of the world’s largest continuous body of sand. The Rub’ al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, covers some 650,000 square kilometres, which is more than the combined land areas of Holland, Belgium and France.
The Empty Quarter has many mysterious secrets linked to it. Underneath its mountainous dunes, are oil reserves that were formed millions of years ago when the area used to be a tropical rainforest.
One of the most interesting things about the Empty Quarter are the lakes, which may be nature’s ultimate mirage. They once quenched the thirst of man and beast, which included hippopotamus, water buffalo and long-horned cattle.
It was less arid in the past and that is evident with the long-ago presence of hippos is attested by finds of their fossilised teeth, which are so pristine that they might have been lost just yesterday. The ossified bones of water buffalo and long-horned cattle, as well as of wild asses, wild goats or sheep, gazelle, and possibly camels and hartebeest, have all also been found in the petrified lake mud. Clam shells are in evidence, too, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest modern coast. Chipped-stone tools are scattered in the vicinity.
The Iram of the Pillars, which is accepted as a lost city is thought to be in the desert, and probably even an entire lost civilisation. A few artefacts have been found by ground-penetrating radar and analysis of satellite imagery, but the lost city remains mysterious. Another name given to this lost civilisation is Atlantis of the Sands, which supposedly was destroyed by a natural disaster or as a punishment by God.
This gorgeous golden desert is linked to stunning Saudi Arabia through the Eastern Province, which in itself is a hidden gem throughout the Persian Gulf. You can go trekking and hiking in these beautiful sunny dunes, or even camp in the desert if you wish!
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