Desert trail: a mix of thrill and tranquility
In the vastness of the desert, its silence speaks to you. It surrounds you in such a way that you feel one with nature – experiencing life in every grain of sand, in the whispering wind, in the mysteries of constellations that seem to hang just an arm’s length away, to be plucked from the inky blue desert night sky.
There are many places where one can get a feel of the desert, but the Arabian Oryx Camp situated amid the mighty dunes of Oman’s Sharqiyah Sands takes the experience several notches higher. Little wonder then why the place has patrons coming in from all over the world. The camp, roughly 200km from the Muscat International Airport, gives an insight into the lives of the Bedouins and their harmonious relationship with the often-treacherous desert.
The camp began nearly two decades ago, says its owner Hamdan Ali al Hajri, “We started off with just two persons and 68,000sq m. Now, it has grown immensely.”
Hajri says camping provides a different facet to tourism. “Desert camps are mainly to relax and connect with nature. This was the idea on which we started the project.”
The camp is a great experience in desert living. A restaurant serves authentic Arabian food in Bedouin style tents. Dune bashing and sand skating let one get the thrill. If you are not a thrill-seeker, just sit atop a sand dune to witness the sun rise and set. After dusk, lilting music from the oud fills the air, cutting through the silence till far. Each night, musicians give performances on this Arabian lute for guests, accompanied by singers who sing songs of love, longing and nature. A popular attraction – true to the camp’s name – are a family of Arabian oryx roaming its grounds. Add to this special programmes for guests to give them a real taste of Bedouin life – cooking shuwa the traditional way and henna painting.
The property has tents, rooms and family rooms. One section is the eco-camp lined with palm trees and no air-conditioning in the rooms – and remains fully booked most of the season. Round-the-clock water supply to the camp comes through a 13km pipeline.
According to Mohammad Arshad, the manager, the camp is a preferred place for guests from across the world. “Most of them come to enjoy the silence and the desert life. No one has complained about the hot weather conditions till now.”
The camp closes in May when the sun gets unbearable. It is during this break that renovations and upkeep projects are undertaken.
Dr Ibrahim al Haddabi, a guest at the camp praised the facilities. “The silence of the desert and the cleanliness draw me to the camp. I come here often with my friends and enjoy the silence of the night, besides biking and games of volleyball in the dark.”
Maintaining the camp is a task for its team. While most guests adhere to the rules of not littering and respect the environment, there are some people from outside the camp who use the premises to dump garbage. “This is indeed bad for both business and environment. We have reported the matter to the Ministry of Tourism and they have assured us good cooperation to counter the menace,” says Hajri.