Life in the Empty Quarter
200 kilometers on foot to explore the Empty Quarter Desert
It was a wonderful and amazing cultural experience in the world of desert, during which I challenged myself to walk 200 km to explore the empty quarter, choosing the camel to be my companion. My first stop was from Sharurah, a city in the south of Saudi Arabia. Its inhabitants are known as the People of Ramla (people of the sand), the name being given to the fact that its inhabitants have lived their whole lives near the desert.
Aimless pursuit makes life pointless, so I set my goal to walk 200 km in 8 days, where my first plan was to walk 25 km a day during the day.
The challenge started from previous one, where I walked 200 kilometers from Riyadh to Al Majma’ah . In one way or another I wanted to imitate the way our ancestors traveled in the past. On the first day, I land in Sharurah by plane and then we drove about 90 km through the Empty Quarter desert. There I met my traveling companion and adventure, “Samaha,” as she knows what I don’t know in the desert, and I don’t think I can find a trustworthy companion like her.
Dealing with my travelling companion
My experience dealing with camels was close to zero, and People of Ramlah gave me a quick briefing on how to deal with the camel, “Althalol“. At the sunset of the first day, I started walking with Samaha. The experience was wonderful that I didn’t stop. So, my first plan changed from not walking at night to walking at night, were I walked four hours and covered 12 kilometers. I was lucky the first night, because I did not need to use my headlamp, it was a moonlit night, unlike the nights that followed.
Breeze of freedom
Next morning, I woke up feeling the breeze of freedom, with one thing in my mind, hurrying and completing the march. I asked people of Ramlah to go ahead and set up a camp where I was going to meet them, and that was when I started my journey on my own without any equipment to help me with directions. The traveling team with automobiles saved the hassle of traveling, so during the day the team traveled 15 kilometers to prepare the camp and prepare food and so they did for the nighttime as well. We were accompanied on our trip by a photographer to get quick footage of the trip, so that I documented for you – my friends. And then he joins the car team so that I can spend what I call a fun time (solitude), where the sun and the moon were my compass to complete the way, and because adventure necessitated you to look for it in the smallest things, I went completely off the radar until I find the camp.
Not all options are always correct
I’ve never rode a camel without help, so I decided to try it. I stopped my watch counting the distance, then rode on Samaha’s back. It was not a good idea! The thing I was sitting on was not completely fixed, so I fell hard! I spent a lot of time chasing Samaha in the desert until I caught her.
I came across two brothers who were driving a car full of water to water their flock, and they were generous enough to let me use the water and shower, which was too refreshing to put into words. And trust me when I say that water is real gold. Since the plan changed and I decided to walk at night, I’ve managed to get over 200 km just in seven days, at an average of 25-30 km per day in 9 hours, 5 hours during the day, and 4 hours at night.
A little about my companion
Camels are amazing creatures; I have never seen such a wonderful animal as a camel. I always wondered how the people of deserts liked their camels as much as they did, and yes, she was the thing that added glamor and pleasure to my journey. On the third day, I started feeling her and she felt me, just three days were enough for us to form a beautiful friendship as if we had known each other for a long time. Our friendship was so strong that it prevented me from eating until I feed her. On the other hand, she started waking me up in the morning as if she gave me energy to keep walking again. In the desert, if the camel is your travel companion, then it is in control and you should respect its desire, especially when it comes to sandy hills. If signs of fear appear on the camel, do not force it to walk, as this is part of what I learned in my exploration of the Empty Quarter.
Until we meet again, don’t forget to smile
Experiencing the adventure
The walking experience was amazing. I went through several weather fluctuations, the temperature would drop off at one time and rise at another, like flashlights, rising from less than zero to above 30 degrees Celsius. I was thrilled by the sight when I saw hills of black stones followed by empty lots, which motivated me to move on. The empty quarter sands was hard to anticipate, were sometimes it feels as walking on a solid base, but other times your feet sink deep into the quicksand. One night the moon caught me by the brilliance of its appearance, and I lost my way, but I quickly followed my steps until I found the camp.