The Hajar Ali Expedition:
Traverse Notes: started in al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, ended in Salalah, Oman; started and ended in March, 2012:
Day 1: Landed in Dubai Airport via a red-eye flight from SIN-DXB and
headed straight to the Empty Quarters, stopping for lunch at a local
restaurant en route. The roof rack was dislodged and slid down whilst
navigating mild sand dunes, hitting the bonnet, bringing the water
supplies and petrol crashing on the sand. Fortunately only half a jerry
can of water was lost and that the windscreen was not smashed by the roof
Day 2: Planned for today is the much anticipated Umm As Samim (mother of
poison), one of the ‘most feared deserts known to man'. Bedus have
interesting beliefs surrounding Umm As Samim. Its legendary quicksands
similarly merited a place in Lawrence of Arabia's and Wilfred Thesiger's
imagination. Thesiger, the first foreigner to cross the Umm As Samim,
skirted its eastern edges.
Day 3: Camped for the night at Ramlat Gharbaniyat, the first campsite of
dunes approximated to reach as high as 400m. Certainly one of the
prettiest campsites on the journey. The third night also marked the
beginning of sandstorms during the night. The sandstorm in the first night
was mild but disturbed my sleep. At times it felt like someone had walked
past my tent and dumped a bucket of sand over its porous top. That and the
violent flapping of the tent contributed to wretched sleep for the night.
Day 4: Ramlat Mughshin.
Another pretty campsite. The trick to moderating the flapping of your tent
is to place large boxes/containers/bags around the edges of your tent.
Day 5: Ramlat Mithan.
Wadi Qitbit: Repaired tyres damaged during the journey. Refueled.
Re-stocked on water. Continued on to Ramlat Hashman. Having been told
that there are ‘crystal balls' to be found in Ramlat Mithan, in the areas
close to the Yemeni border, had altered the route to include Ramlat
Mithan, not knowing what these ‘crystal balls' looked like.
Managed to identify and find a few crystal balls and a round of bullets.
The temperature by then had gone above 40 degrees. The round of bullets,
along with stories of how Yemenis are smuggling themselves across the
border lent delicious frisson to the afternoon. Surreal landscapes
combining plains and high dunes.
The worst sandstorm tonight and the high temperatures of the afternoon had
curiously not cooled down. The landscape of plains and dunes do not afford
any protection from the sandstorm. Set up the tent, if only to stuff
everything in the car into the tent to create space to sleep inside the
vehicle. The sandstorm came suddenly, seemingly without notice. Sand has a
way of seeping into everything. Kept my head down to minimize the amount
of sand getting into my eyes. A few times, overwhelmed, I'd opened my
mouth to breathe, which only allows sand into the mouth. Took refuge by
sleeping in the vehicle for the night which gets quite claustrophobic.
Left the vehicle at 5am to sleep in the tent, convinced that the sandstorm
Day 6: End of expedition in Salalah.
Ramlat Hashman, Between al-Ayn, Abu Dhabi, and Salalah, Oman. Photo by Hajar Ali
Hajar Ali. The brightness of the dunes in daylight is very clear here. Photo by Hajar Ali