We arrived at Al Areesh Desert camp which is as difficult to find as you might expect something in the middle of the desert to be. There were either no signs at all or the ones that were there were severely rusted and slightly bent – they looked like they may have recently had a collision with a camel and/or a 4×4. The camp is among the Wahibah Sands, one of the oldest deserts in the world – with rolling dunes, reaching up to 100 metres and shifting sands. This is the traditional home of the Bedouin, hardy, spirited people who know how to survive in these harsh desert conditions. We came across our first Bedouin, Abdullah having a sleep in the camp and we surprised him, as I think we’d arrived early. ‘Al Areesh’ means Palm Huts in Arabic and indeed that it where we were to sleep – little palm huts in the desert with electric lights and an adjacent modest bathroom.
This was not as luxurious as some of the Desert Night tented camps we had seen advertised but it seemed more authentic and was indeed, half the price. There was also a large communal area with Arabic cushions and rugs for lounging on while eating and socialising. There we met our other camp mates who consisted of three Norwegian guys who could only say ‘OK’ in English (similar to my Norwegian repertoire) and a charming English family of three generations. The grandfather was a professor of English at Oman University and he and his wife spent six months in Oman and then six months at their house in Chester in the UK. Not a bad lifestyle at all. There was also the option for sand boarding down the dunes which is a bit like sledging in snow. The Bedouin children like to slide down the huge dunes onany bits of shiny plastic they can. This is great amusement for them, as they have no access to Play stations, X boxes, cable TV or the Internet.Poor things.
The dunes are impressive indeed and we enjoyed the thrill of a mad hour ‘dune bashing’ in a large range rover affair driven expertly by the very cool Abdullah. This involved gearing up the steep dunes and then pausing at the top of a vertical one, ‘bashing’ down the other side of it and generally swooping very fast through the waves of sand in an exciting manner.
Abdullah was in full control of his 4×4 and had obviously done this many times. I, however was unaccustomed to facing the precipice of a vertical dune and going over the top, battle of the Somme style and did a bit of excited squealing which was probably extremely uncool.
Abdullah – cool Bedouin
At the end of the drive, we all got out and sat in the glorious orange sand to watch the stunning sunset. The Travelodge tree naturally came as well. There was an interesting sort of sprung bed affair outside our camp where you could lie to do your night time star gazing if you so wished. Nowhere do stars look bigger or more beautiful than in the desert. The evening meal was simple but tasty. Our English companions produced some gin and tonic as if by magic and asked if we would like some. We greatly enjoyed the duty free gin with such convivial companions and it rounded off a very special desert day for us in a very good way.