I’ve always wanted to spend a night in the desert somewhere. A stopover in Oman was a good occasion to make this dream come true. We watched the sunset on a sand dune, had dinner with Bedouins and went on a camel ride the next morning. In between lay a night under bright stars – and a mouse in the tent that kept me awake half of the night!
When we first decided to fly with Oman Air to Southeast Asia, my knowledge about this country was very limited. Sure, I knew it was somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula and that there were supposed to be a lot of sheiks and camels – but that was about it. Pretty naive, huh?
As neither Mr Grumbert nor I had been to the Arabian Peninsula before, we were contemplating to spend a few days in Muscat instead of just changing planes there. So I started to do some research:
Ok google: what to do in Oman?
The results google came up with were definitely more than I’d expected: Oman’s Grand Canyon. Wadis with crystal clear water and palm trees. Beaches. Water holes. A Sahara-like sand desert. And even a real sultan living in a palace in the capital! Well, sounds like fairy tales of Arabian Nights, doesn’t it?
As soon as I read about the possibility to book a daytrip from Muscat to the Sharqiya Sands Desert, I knew that’s what we had to do. Aware that this was going to be the experience of a lifetime, I didn’t want to take any chances and booked a stay at the Nomadic Desert Camp. It’s one of the more expensive offers, however the overall superb reviews on different travel sites convinced me.
Booking and preparations for our night in the desert
We chose an overnight package for 110 EUR (115 USD) per person. It included transfer from Al Wasil to the camp and back, dinner, breakfast and a camel ride. Shortly after completing the booking request on the Nomadic Desert Camp homepage, we received a confirmation E-Mail.
According to the E-Mail, we were supposed to bring “torch and towel” with us. As we were on our way back from a beach holiday in Krabi, we already had towels in our luggage. On the morning of our departure, we stopped at a Wal Mart in Muscat and bought a torch as well as some food. Of course our tour package included dinner and breakfast, but I just wasn’t sure what type of food they were going to offer us. While Mr Grumbert is a rather adventurous eater, I prefer to play it safe. I’m a bit picky as far as meat is concerned, especially concerning quality and continuous cooling. Both seemed to be rather questionably in the middle of the desert in Oman… So we bought some crackers, in case I might go to bed hungry. In retrospective, it was not only unnecessary but also unwise…
Arranging to leave our luggage back at the hotel in Muscat was a very good decision though, as I really couldn’t imagine to drag my large Rimowa suitcase over dusty sand to a desert cabin.
The start into our Sharqiya Sands desert adventure
We started our tour from Muscat with a rental car. The meeting point for the desert camp was in Al Wasil, a small town approximately 200 Km away from Muscat. Despite all the horror stories about driving in Oman, the drive from Muscat to Al Wasil was easy. There wasn’t much traffic and road conditions were good. After approximately 02:30 h we reached Al Wasil.
We didn’t see any animals crossing the road – but a lot of airplanes up in the sky.
Arriving early at the meeting point, we had a look around the village and found a small Indian restaurant where we had excellent lunch. When we returned to the meeting point, our tour guides were already waiting for us. At about 3 p.m. we started off into the desert in 4-Wheel-drives together with 6 other tourists (a Dutch couple and four Italians).
The drive into the Sharqiya Sands desert
The car was in a good condition and our guide drove carefully so that we could lean back, relax and enjoy the beautiful views outside.
Slowly, the landscape started to change. Behind the next hill, the first sand dunes emerged and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a movie like sand desert!
Half way into the Sharqiya Sands Desert, our driver informed us, that we would stop to “feed the baby camel” before heading to the camp. Yes! I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve always liked camels and the opportunity to get close up with a little one was amazing. In European Zoos, I usually feel pity for these animals. I don’t like the thought that they’re kept in too small compounds outside of their natural surroundings. Seeing these camels walk free under the desert sun was so much better! And of course the little one was really cute:
Nomadic Desert Camp
About half an hour later, we arrived at the Nomadic Desert Camp – which looked exactly as on the pictures! Plus: it actually felt as if it was a hundred miles away from the next village. On our ride through the desert we passed some of the other camps that were just on the edge of the desert with many jeeps cruising by. The Nomadic Desert Camp in contrast is in a more secluded part of the desert and during our stay we didn’t see any other jeeps or people passing by. We were really glad to have paid the extra bit to make this experience perfect!
The cabins were placed with a distance between them, offering at least some privacy from fellow travellers.
Everything was really clean and well-kept.
The interior of our cabin was furnished with oriental carpets and looked very nice:
Sunset in the desert
Before dinner, our guides drove us on top of a sand dune to watch the sunset. A stunning experience!
It had rained in Oman two days before our visit to the desert and the dunes were only slowly starting to dry again:
Candle light dinner in the desert
While we were watching the sunset, the staff members at the desert camp had already prepared dinner. When we arrived back at the camp, the whole place was lit up by candles and torches. In the dining area, an Indian-Arabian-style buffet was waiting for us with bread, rice, hummus, vegetables and several different curry dishes. Wow! Simply wow! It smelled deliciously and tasted even better. I love Indian food and I would’ve never expected to get something like that in the middle of the desert. In that moment I realized I wouldn’t need any of the crackers I had brought with me…
Spending the night in the desert
Unfortunately, bringing these crackers with me turned out to be more than just an unnecessary purchase. Sometime after we had gone to bed, there was a rustling sound next to our backpacks. At first I tried to ignore it, telling myself it was just the wind. Suddenly the rustling stopped and I heard the sound of small feet racing back and forth somewhere in our cabin. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a mouse running up and down the oriental carpet next to my bed. That really gave me the creeps. What if it jumped on my bed by accident and bit me in the toe? Who knew what kind of diseases mouse could transmit…?
How I made it to the next morning
My first impulse was to run out of the cabin and never set a foot in there again. Of course this wasn’t a five star luxury resort and it’s a natural surrounding for a desert mouse. Still, the thought to actually sleep with that crazy mouse running around was terrible for me! At the same time I knew I had to pass the night somehow, and remain standing outside of our cabin for the next 7 hours wasn’t really an option. As there was nothing else I could do instead of trying to sleep after all, I covered myself in the sheets from head to toe, so that the mouse couldn’t get in touch with my feet, arms or face. Lying there beneath the sticky blanket, the night in the desert felt like the night would go on forever.
Sometime after midnight I must’ve fallen asleep after all, because when I looked at the clock the next time, light was already streaming in through the door crack. I was so relieved! Although I felt really exhausted, I had survived the night without being bitten by that nasty little mouse!
By the time Mr Grumbert and I watched the sunrise on a sand dune next to the camp, the whole episode already started to feel funny instead of scary.
A camel ride after breakfast
After a delicious breakfast, we started our last highlight of this tour: A camel ride!
For about half an hour the Bedouins led us through the desert before they drove us back to Al Wasil.
Spending a night in the desert in Oman was really a unique experience! Our stay at the Nomadic Desert Cap was well organized and offered good value for money. Although it turned out to be a personal challenge for me, I would still do it again. Next time I wouldn’t bring any food with me though. Mr Grumbert and I are still convinced, that the bought crackers lured the mouse into our tent… Stupid me!
Apart from that little episode, the tour was really great. From feeding the baby camel up to watching the sunset on a sand dune. If you ever fly with Oman Air, make sure to spend at least three days in this beautiful country and include a night in the desert! I’m sure you’re going to love it as much as we did!