49 days ago, the ‘Crossing the Empty Quarter team,’ (two Omani explorers and one British explorer) started their journey in Salalah, in the south of Oman. Now they arrived back in the Sultanate. But Is the ‘Rub al Khali,’ or ‘Empty Quarter’ as empty as we think?
To mark the 85-year anniversary of the first Empty Quarter Crossing in 1931 by Bertram Thomas, the same road from Salalah to Doha in Qatar was followed by the ‘Crossing the Empty Quarter team.’ At that time, stars and proper knowledge of the desert were the optimal means of navigation during the crossing. The journey of Bertram Thomas and his team took 60 days. The ‘Crossing the Empty Quarter team,’ used the GPS (global positioning system) for reference. It took them 49 days to return back to the Sultanate. A facebook page was created and for following the journey in real time there was the official Tahaddi Arabia app for mobile device. On December the fourth during preparation time of the expedition people from 88 nations had already logged on to follow the progress. Later out this year there will be the publication of the book ‘Crossing the Empty Quarter.’
The Empty Quarter is one of the largest sandy deserts in the world. It encompasses most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. With temperatures that on an average summer day can easily rise to 131 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius, the area has seldom been inhabited. Geologically the Empty Quarter, one of the most oil rich places in the world, is not so empty as it appear on the naked eye. Since 2006 findings of different plant species, different birds and animal life gave this desert also the nickname ‘Valuable Quarter.’