When it comes to enjoying the desert, there is no other region as stimulating as the Middle East. And, in the region, the Sultanate boasts some of the most fabulous deserts that offer the best experiences for travellers
SARNGADHARAN NAMBIAR –
A terrain of savage dignity? If this is what a desert can be ultimately, if we align with Deanne Stillman, we’d do well to meditate deeply in a desert and get connected with the mostly unfamiliar terrain and get enlightened a bit. And what about, ‘a life without music is a journey through a desert’?
How and when did the desert shift away from us, even as each one of us continues to carry a desert of unmanifest emotions in us? Why we tend to conjure a negative image of the desert, which as Walter Elliot noted, has its holiness of silence? And, I’m not sure if Nadine Gordimer’s view of desert as ‘a place without expectation’ should be taken as a compliment or not? Either way, it absolutely unravels the eeriness of the place, and eventually, what matters is individual perception.
Stillman holds that people who are drawn to the desert derive comfort and nourishment from its wide open spaces, and looking across a desert panorama calms interior noise. The eye can rest and therefore, the heart.
Philosophising apart, today, deserts are gaining in popularity as the choicest tourist destinations, globally. And, along with this upsurge in tourist flows to deserts come a plethora of challenges, including the threat to their fragile ecosystems and limited resources. Notwithstanding our rough images of the deserts, desert tourism demands delicate management: is it a paradox? Another question is who benefits from desert tourism’s economics, the local tribes or tourism companies?
We can’t overlook the ethno-cultural landscape of the deserts, and this demands consistent efforts at the preservation of not just the deserts but indigenous communities.
Nobody has analysed why travellers listen to the call of the deserts, and decide to undertake a journey braving the tough and crude elements of raw nature. Is it the lure of experiencing primordial nature, can be anybody’s guess. Be it hiking, camping, sand-boarding, cross-desert trekking, carting or photography, the connection a desert tourist makes with the arid region is unique.
When it comes to enjoying the desert, there is no other region as stimulating as the Middle East. And, in the region, the Sultanate boasts some of the most fabulous deserts that offer the best experiences for travellers.
As the Sultanate’s tourism strategy targets 5 million annual visitors by 2040, desert tourism is sure to play a key role in its success, along with establishing dedicated tourism clusters in various destinations and developing the frankincense trail.
The deserts in Oman that attract visitors include the Ramlat Tawq in Al Batinah South, which stands out for its vast beautiful sand dunes; and the Bausher sands, which lies near to the fantastic beaches of Muscat, and is noted for its golden-hued sand hills that are a hit among tourists who like sand-duning or gliding.
Al Sharqiyah Sands is another popular desert destination among international and domestic tourists. The region that spreads across 10,000 sq km ranks among the most captivating camping areas in the Sultanate. The major attraction is the shifting colour palette of the sands, that range from red to brown and all that lie in between. This desert has the added distinction of being the homeland of the Bedouin tribes.
And who hasn’t heard about the famed Empty Quarter? As the largest desert in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, its mysteries are yet to be unravelled, for the terrain has large expanses of unexplored and uninhabited places.
Deserts never cease to amuse us. Because, they continuously question our entrenched and mostly dull perceptions about beauty, nature, solace and leisure. Desert tourism begins with our humble acceptance of the arid terrain’s magnificence and an earnest quest to get connected in a subtle way. And as a humble and responsible desert tourist, one can’t afford to skip the Sultanate’s amazing deserts.