Saturday, January 29, 2011

The beauty of nothing

Last week something else got ticked off my bucket list, a visit to The Empty Quarter, one of the largest sand deserts in the world bordering Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and my country of residence, the United Arab Emirates. 
Empty Quarter dunes
Over my 9 years in the UAE, I have spend quite some time taming dunes in 4x4's closer to Dubai, but this definitively steps it up a notch! Three hundred feet dunes, one after the other, covering an amazing 650.000 sq./km., more than the total area of Belgium, the Netherlands and France together.

Road between Moreeb dune and Liwa oasis
The easiest way of  getting to The Empty Quarter from Dubai, ( called Rub' al Khali in Arabic ), is a 3 to 4 hour drive to Liwa, a 100km wide East-West oasis close to the Saudi border.  

Rainy clouds over Liwa
We went out there with three 4x4 cars and camped 2 nights in the desert wilderness. Surprisingly we actually had quite a bit of rain during the night and early mornings. According to a local camel farmer, this occurs once every 5 to 10 years!  

Paragliding over the Empty Quarter
One of our fellow campers who is an experienced paraglider, brought his parachute on the trip.  A  15 knot wind blowing over the dunes, made for good slope soaring conditions.  

Camels and Paragliders. Strange combination
Just after landing in one of the many dry lake beds, this camel looked very surprised to this crazy creature coming from the sky!

We (my wife and myself) each got to do a brief paraglider solo flight and both got excited! We might take this a step further in the future... 

Midnight camping with a full moon
While camping under a full moon, I shot this midnight shot of two of our tents. 

Moreeb dune racing
On the way home we stopped at Moreeb dune, Arabic for scary mountain! It is a 120m high dune with a 50 degree upslope where locals race cars, dune buggies and motorbikes.

Great dunes of Liwa
Even though I did not shoot as much as I had in mind, it was a great escape for a few days. Highly recommended!

Click that shutter,

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