Oman promises little but delivers lots; more culturally rich, politically stable and less religiously punishing compared to its Gulf neighbors, it has a great deal to offer. From unspoilt beaches to historic settlements to glorious deserts – in fact it boasts one of the largest all sand deserts in the world, The Empty Quarter, which it shares with neighboring Saudi Arabia. Although desert safaris seem to be materializing all over the world wherever there are a few grains of sand, unfortunately with most it is often a case of choosing either comfort or authenticity, not both – we are not sure how many Bedouins have tents decked out with air conditioning, wifi and mini bars, although who can really say.
The Wahiba Sands of Oman, a 4,800 square mile desert to the north west of the country, is a less ominous and more convenient alternative to the Empty Quarter and is precisely where the Safari Desert Camp is based. This camp, composed of 12 traditional tents and 8 fixed huts each with attached rudimentary open-air bathrooms, is the ideal no-fuss set up ensured to give visitors a brief taste of nomad living. The tents are decorated with colorful carpets, tapestries and bedspreads. The food is mostly sourced locally and luckily the desert provides more than sand and dust. Dishes often consist of some kind of barbecued meat, usually goat, and the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables is compensated by an abundance of dried fruits and nuts, especially dates. To wash it all down they provide strong Arabic coffee, or fresh camel’s milk, which isn’t to everyone’s liking but much healthier than cows, thanks to its low lactose, high protein content. The meals at the camp are taken in the ‘majlis’ or traditional sitting area, where you can lounge like a sultan on scatter cushions under a cool canopy during lunch hours or around a warm fire beneath the starry nights.
However it’s not all just lying around and stuffing your face with food. Alongside some macho dune bashing on 4WD’s, the Safari Desert Camp can organize pretty much anything camel related: group camel races, camel treks through the dunes and camel expeditions to the nearby Wadi Bani Khalid – a bona fide oasis featuring, springs, streams and azure pools of water.
To avoid spontaneous combustion though, stay well away from May to August.