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Empty Quarter

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The Empty Quarter (Arabic: Rub'al-Khali) is the expansive desert in the southeastern interior of the Arabian Peninsula, the largest continuous body of sand in the world.


It's tempting to call the Empty Quarter "no man's land", but that's not quite correct. Nomads do in fact inhabit parts of the Quarter at various times of year. And the territory is spoken for: the interior borders of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen are in here... somewhere. It's just that no one has bothered to actually draw those lines in the sand. The many camels living here are the only constant population.


Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

  • In the UAE, the very northern edge of the Empty Quarter, is accessible from the Liwa Oasis, a 200 km drive from Abu Dhabi on excellent highways. The larger road, to Huwayiah, is lined with green date palms, and the other road (closer to Abu Dhabi), to Al Hamai'm, now has them growing as well -- nice for Emiratis looking to visit an oasis, but blocking the view of the desert for foreigners.
  • From Saudi Arabia, visits to most of the Empty Quarter require permits from the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development [1], and are most easily arranged through tour agencies. The usual gateways are Wadi al-Dawasir (Sulayyil) and Sharurah, both reachable by road from Riyadh (a 550-km drive) or via Saudia flight from Riyadh or Jeddah. Najran, 300 km west of Sharurah, is also a reasonable starting point.

Get around[edit]

By Car[edit]

A 4WD vehicle, or rather, a caravan of them is the only sane option for entering the soft sands of the desert. 'If you aren't a confident, experienced, well-equipped sand dune desert driver, Wikitravel cannot prepare you for something like the Empty Quarter.' On paved roads, in the UAE, a road passes through the oasis towns, and a drive is possible to Tal Mireb, the tallest dune in the country, which gives a few minutes of perspective on how vast and inhospitable this place is.

See[edit][add listing]

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In the UAE and Oman, alcohol is permitted subject to certain restrictions. In the Empty Quarter, certain hotels on the UAE side do serve alcohol.
Travel Warning WARNING: DO NOT bring alcohol into the Saudi or Yemeni corners of the Empty Quarter, they WILL enforce their laws, and you WILL get instantly executed.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

As with all deserts, bring lots of water, make sure that your vehicle can handle the desert sands and be certain that you have a reliable means of divining direction (such as a GPS). Also, bring a reliable means of communication in case of trouble. As a nomad, you are not exempt from laws and offenses which could lead to death, especially homosexuality.

Get out[edit]

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