The Rub’ al Kahli, or “Empty Quarter,” is Earth’s largest sand desert and nearly the size of Texas. Swallowing land from the U.A.E. to Saudia Arabia and Oman, it mostly exists as an empty void that few have ever crossed. Out on the desert’s fringes, however, Bedouin tribes have managed to survive amidst the harsh conditions, and many readily welcome visitors to share in the desert beauty. When visiting modern Abu Dhabi, leave the twinkling lights behind and head for the sandy void, where blue skies and shifting dunes stretch far as the eye can see. The sand out here is soft and fine, and holds a surprisingly subtle array of reds, yellows, and bronze.
When dressing for an Abu Dhabi desert safari, it’s best to wear some closed toed shoes for walking out on the dunes, as well as bring a change of clothes should you end up covered in sand. After all, many desert trips offer guests the chance to sandboard on dunes, and even though the boards are wide and relatively stable, there’s always the chance a soft landing could leave you covered in sand. Depart from the city in afternoon and four-wheel across the dunes, reaching a point where profound silence is nature’s only sound. Watch the sunset while sipping tea in a pillow-lined Bedouin camp and sit and watch as stars burst through a clear, inky black sky. Throughout the trip, new adventures and unique experiences are found around every bend, from riding a camel, to Henna tattoos, to a belly dancer’s enchantment. Pass a water pipe around a campfire that dances into the night, and share in Bedouin hospitality that explorers and Arabian pioneers have written about since the first days that maps were drawn in the sand.