By freelance reporter Marcus George in Salalah, Oman
The preparing is over, the farewells stated and the adventure has begun. 3 men walk purposefully across the wide, dusty plain that stretches towards a crest of hills surrounding the town of Salalah in the deep south of Oman.
I am here for day one particular of an intrepid 1,300-kilometres journey by Oman-based British explorer Mark Evans and two Omani colleagues who are attempting to cross the Empty Quarter — Rub al Khali in Arabic.
It is the world’s biggest sand desert and stretches across the southern Arabian peninsula.
The group is retracing the route taken by a fairly unknown British civil servant, Bertram Thomas, in 1930. He overcame threats from warring tribes and scarce water supplies to make the epic journey from Salalah by means of Saudi Arabia to the tiny Gulf kingdom of Qatar.
In carrying out so, Thomas is believed to be the very first westerner to have crossed the desert. Thomas served in numerous roles in the area and was appointed finance minister of Oman.
It was in that capacity he undertook his historic crossing, documenting the desert’s animals, inhabitants and culture.
Like Thomas, the current expedition consists of camels, but they will also have the benefit of two help autos to aid carry supplies.
The hospitality is incredible. There’s no such point as popping in for a quick cup of tea in Oman.
British explorer Mark Evans
If they are apprehensive, it does not show.
“The ideal bit of the journey starts here,” Evans says passionately as he walks.
“Absolutely nothing can change now. We have almost everything we need to have for 50 days. We have this wonderful landscape ahead of us and we should embrace it.”
But there are significant challenges ahead, from sandstorms to navigating their way by way of massive dunes. They will also require to make sure the wellbeing of their camels.
Evans is concerned they might not be sturdy enough.
Crucially, the group can not transport all the water they will need to have and will have to resupply en route from a number of desert wells. Thomas employed the very same wells in 1930.
“The wells are our stepping stone across the Empty Quarter but we have no notion whether they still hold water and if they do, if it really is potable for the camels and ourselves,” Evans says bluntly.
Generating the most of modern day tools
Carrying modern-day communications equipment, the group — which contains Omani nationals Mohammed al-Zadjali and Amour bin Ali bin Majeed Al Wahaibi — knows it can get in touch with for emergency air supplies if necessary.
There was no such guarantee for Thomas in 1930, who had to survive on restricted food and water. Completing his journey was above and beyond all else, a matter of pure survival.
Now four days into the journey and the group is in very good condition, Evans tells the ABC.
In the early stages, they will be walking no much more than 15km a day to guard against exhaustion.
“Things are going genuinely effectively. I am feeling fitter and stronger than I have in years,” Evans says.
By Thursday they will be in Shisr, an outpost on the edge of the Empty Quarter where they are expecting a massive welcome from the neighborhood tribe ahead of they enter the desert correct.
Evans says they’ve been well received on each quit and have met relatives of the guides who accompanied Thomas in 1930.
“The hospitality is extraordinary. There’s no such point as popping in for a fast cup of tea in Oman,” he says.
It is maybe the greatest contrast to Thomas’s journey, who was often on guard against attacks from hostile tribes, especially about watering holes.
“If any enemy is currently in possession, there is a decision amongst hasty retreat tormented by thirst and worry of pursuit or a fight for possession,” Thomas wrote at the time.
Oman happy to lend a hand
A fantastic challenge for the present expedition was obtaining permission to cross the Rub al Khali. The desert encompasses components of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Attempting the journey would have been inconceivable with out the backing of the Omani authorities. They recognised an chance to stimulate interest among Omani youth in the country’s desert heritage.
And the Omani government’s targets don’t quit there. The expedition is also offering a opportunity to emphasise Oman’s extended-established diplomacy across a area plagued by tensions and conflicts.
For decades, the Sultanate of Oman has maintained its independence from the rest of the Gulf countries enabling it to take on a crucial mediation part in talks between the US and Iran and among Yemen’s government and pro-Iran Houthi rebels who have taken over huge sections of that country.
“We in the Arabian peninsula are part of a single big family,” says the secretary general of Oman’s ministry of foreign affairs, Sayyed Badr bin Hamad Al Busaidi, selecting his words meticulously.
“This [expedition] is also reasserting that very same message of peace and enjoy and continuing to develop cooperation and move the complete area on for better days to come,” he stated.
Topics: folks, neighborhood-and-society, human-interest, oman