|A beach but the tide is out|
|Jeanie Jeep's wake captured in the rearview mirror|
The Empty Quarter or Rub al Khali, is not called so lightly and even modern life has made little impact on this part of the world - miles and miles of sand with an occasional road or line of pylons and the odd oil well head. This is the world's largest sand desert stretching across several countries. For the most part this corner of the UAE is truely "empty" with little traffic and a few camels. The camels struck us as different somehow, then we realised their hides were so dark as to be almost black not "camel" - do you get different breeds like you get breeds of cows or sheep? No idea.
|Camping Emirati style|
|The silvery "lake" at the foot of the dunes is Sabkha|
|Camping just off the road|
|A night time visitor left tracks around Jeanie Jeep's tyres|
|At the foot of Moreeb Hill (aka Scary Mountain)|
|Wind swept sand looks like waves|
|Greenhouses, Liwa Oasis|
|Jeanie Jeep somewhere enroute to Al Ain|
|A new meaning to the term "Road Hogs"|
After a roadside lunch amongst the irrigated date palm lined fields, we eventually spotted the rocky heights of Jebel Hafeet rising up through the murky dust ahead of us. This outcrop of rock when approached from the south looks like a sleeping dragon sprawled across the flat desert. The mountains of Oman are some distance away and this sole pinky grey fold in the Earth's crust has a mystical appearance rising up as it does to over 1000 metres almost straight from the ground.
From just south of Al Ain we picked our way via older roads across the flat lands of the AD Emirate towards home. By now we can pick out the differences in the desert landscape - it's not all sand and each Emirate has different features. Soon the more rolling sands of Dubai were up on us as was the traffic on the truck road (lorries can't overtake so these giants form lengthy "trains" transporting all manner of goods across the GCC). We found these towering trucks were well mannered and drove mostly in the hard shoulder of the two lane road enabling pickups and cars to pass through the corridor between the opposing lines of traffic. Gaps left between the groups of lorries formed refuges for when there were oncoming cars and everyone seemed to be happy, waving thank-you's for pulling over. The first garage we tried for fuel had a queue of tens of lorries but only stocked diesel and the second had such a long queue reaching far back down the road that we felt it rude to push in so we drove past the queue into the garage checking to see if there were sepearate pumps for cars, there weren't so we headed back onto the road again. In this oil rich nation its never far to the next pump as long as you are on a highway so Jeanie Jeep was topped up shortly after reaching home territory whilst we treated ourselves to an ice cream each (on a stick, in a wrapper, in a sturdy box - overkill I'd say).
We covered over a 1,000k in two days (petrol is cheap here fortunately), done a bit of light walking whilst hunting down some geocaches, had fun camping on the warm sand and seen some amazing sights - all in all a good wander!
* Place names can cause a bit of a navigational headache as Arabic is foremost a spoken language so any transliteration into English can result in multiple spellings of the same name, even on sucessive signposts to the same town! My tip is to say it aloud and then check to see if the signpost or map label sounds similar when you say that. If it does it is probably the same place! However I might be wrong; the settlements in the Liwa Oasis appeared along our route in a different order to that indicated by the GPS or our UAE map so be wary when looking for a place or a street here.