A young desert lover who decided to follow Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist to hear from her heart and pursue life in the desert is Naura Zoubir, a French-Algerian trekking guide.
After a decade in Oman, she views walking as a treasure that safeguards the health and helps to relax the mind and enhance creativity.
For Naura it is a passion to walk on the beach, or hiking through the wadis or a trek in the desert. “This contributes to good health, leading towards a better quality of life. I have guided trips for many foreigners interested to discover and experience adventures of trekking,” she says.
She first became a trekking guide in southern Algeria. Later, joined a famous French travel agency specialised in trekking and hiking tours, and became a tour leader in Jordan and later moved to the Sultanate.
In 2006, her trip to Algeria to discover the Tuareg region of Tassili N’Ajjer in the deep southern Sahara desert totally transformed her. There was no looking back after that.
Before her maiden tour to Oman in December 2009 she studied in detail the Sultanate’s history, culture, traditions and geography.
“The surprise was beyond my expectations,” she mentions, as the country was absolutely new to her and offers the right opportunity for those with a passion for hiking and trekking.
“I was amazed by the variety of landscapes. I discovered some fantastic tour opportunities, like organising early morning walk in the mystic desert of Al Sharqiya sands or an afternoon drive to Wadi Bani Khalid for a refreshing hike and swim.”
Explaining about abundant hiking opportunities available from Musandam to Dhofar, Naura says the country offers ample hiking and trekking opportunities for several days in Jabal Al Akhdhar and the majestic Rub al Khali with its endless trekking possibilities aided by cars or camels.
“Walking is my favourite way to explore the country, because it allows us to discover much more than if we were sitting in a car. This also offers a fantastic opportunity to meet locals and interact with them or even share a coffee or taste camel milk.”
Naura explains that all tours are detailed, including the hours of walk, environment and physical level of the trek in order to inform the guests accurately.
“Tours are adapted to special requests. All the staff are very supportive, and we always review the feedback from guests to adjust the tours,” she mentions.
While the treks in the Empty Quarter need preparation beforehand for several days, they will be completely alone in the wilderness.
As one who helps design the tour, Naura says for safety reasons, they use satellite phones and walkie-talkie to communicate with assistance cars in case of emergency. For all these reasons, there is a partnership with a local agency specialised in Rub al Khali expeditions, to handle the logistical part.
Hit by COVID-9 since March, she will continue to explore new trekking or hiking routes and teach mindful walking meditation. “We have to be patient and stay in touch with guests and travel agencies. Tourism will be back when it is safe to travel again,” she adds.
“At the beginning the tourists visit as guests and at the end of the tour, they depart as friends. I am happy to stay in touch with some guests for now more than 10 years. And some of them that I guided in Jordan, want me to guide them in Oman for the walk which really touches me,” she recalls.
Trekkers Veronique Tamaloute from Switzerland, Pauline Chappey and Fatima Baroun from France say Oman offers a diversity of landscapes from hiking in the mountains, farming in villages to walking and swimming in the wadis.
Veronique, who trekked in March, advises to discover Oman by walk as it is such a great time to explore this country.
French lady Pauline recalls her 4-day trek in Rub al Khali, where the desert was punctuated by the slowness of camels, and the speed of 4WD assistance cars joining at the end of their walking.
“We experienced such a beautiful time among the dunes, enjoying fantastic sunsets and starry nights, tasting camel’s milk during the early morning with three dates before starting our new trekking day.”
Baroun who met with Naura 10 years ago during her trek in Jordan says, “Oman offers beautiful encounters and reunion with a wonderful trekking guide in Naura. My last stay left me with a taste of ‘coming back’ and hopes to be able to return and extend the discovery.”
Naura studied in France, obtaining a Master’s degree in Foreign Affairs and International Business. She later joined the UN as Consultant, set up workshops, learning materials and conferences about sustainable development for UNCTAD, UNIDO and FAO. Later also worked for Swiss-based African foundation promoting agricultural investments mainly in Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
(All pictures were taken before COVID-19 days)