Awestruck by the untamed beauty of sugar dunes

About 430km from Muscat, past the windswept villages of Sur and Ras al Hadd is the unspoilt wilderness of Al Khaluf. A five-hour drive from Muscat, the number of people who visit here are limited, and only those who want to experience something different dare venture its remote, challenging, off-road paths.
But it’s for good reason that one will drive all the way to Al Khaluf. While others also call it Ras Bin Tawt, locals and some travellers fondly call the surrounding area the Sugar Dunes.

Here, the white sand of the desert meets the sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm waves of the Gulf of Oman. From above, it creates a beautiful abstract painting of deep blue sea water, green and foamy white shores and the ridged chaos of the white sand dunes.
Just like in Rimal al Sharqiya and the Empty Quarter, the sand is just as soft that they seep through every nooks and cranny of your feet as you walk on by while the water relatively pleasant during summer ease your pains away. It is here that local explorer Ahmed al Jaabri ventured just this weekend.

Be ready for the long drive
Al Jaabri shared that the journey is quite long.
“We left Muscat around 6 pm and arrived at Ras al Hadd about three hours later. We decided to camp out on a secret beach to also see some turtles as this is also the turtle breeding season,” he shared.
“Some of the dunes in the country are my favourite spots. As a photographer, I like taking photos of them, especially when there is some shadow play involved. The same was the case for Sugar Dunes. I’d been planning for a while to explore it,” he said.
A few friends caught up with them along the way and arrived at Al Khaluf at around 4 pm.
“Some people, they said that the drive is painfully boring. For our group, we enjoyed the road. It can get a little monotonous along the way, but once you take the road off the main road of Al Khaluf, the scenery changes into rocky dunes, and it helps make the drive interesting,” he said.
Located in Al Wusta Governorate, Al Khaluf and the surrounding areas are characterised by beautiful clear beaches that extend a considerable distance along the Arabian sea.
Many of the beaches along the coast become temporary homes and feeding areas for migratory birds.

Going off-road
“After going off the main road, you will have to drive along the beach area of Al Khaluf. This will take you inland but farther down the road, will lead you again back near the coast. After a few more minutes, Sugar Dunes will welcome you,” he said.
Ahmed loves the gentleness of Sugar Dunes view, how it lulls you into this sense of calm. The part where desert sand meets the water, that to him is quite magical — something that you can’t find every day.
“It’s ideal to camp for a night there. There are a lot of good places where you can set up camp and still protected from the wind. The best thing about going at this time of the year is that the weather is incredible. We had a beautiful night and enjoyed nature serenaded by the waves in the distance.
For those who are planning to visit, Ahmed recommended to a) check the tide table b) identify your entrance and exit points c) and select the best spots for camping.
He said that because the area is uninhabited, it can quite be challenging to get to.
“There is a small supermarket a few kilometres away and even a fuel station so you can get your supplies from there before going to the Sugar Dunes. When you decide to venture further, make sure to lower your tire pressure,” he advised.
“While I can understand other people of not going through such a long ride, it is something that I enjoy. It will definitely come back very soon,” he said.

Photos by Ahmed Al Jaabri