The Arabic name Rub al Khali means “empty quarter”, and it is the world’s largest sand desert, located on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and encompassing southern Saudi Arabia as well as parts of Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, news came out that Qabus ibn Said, Sultan of Oman has died, 79 years old – after ruling the country since 1970. When my wife and I visited Oman in 2010, I got the impression that the Sultan was highly respected and loved by everyone I talked to. He seemed to care for the nation’s citizens and had apparently paid everyone’s debts on some occasions … (I don’t know the whole story, haven’t researched it further, think it’s such a good story that I leave it there) He has probably done much more than that, Oman has long been a safe and prosperous oasis in an otherwise quite troubled corner of the world.  

Qabus ibn Said is now succeeded by his cousin, former Minister of Culture Haitham bin Tariq Al Said. I don’t know anything about him, but he looks very friendly on the pictures available on the net. I hope and believe that he will become a wise and kind Sultan and wish this amazing country all the best for the future.

We rented a car and explored the area around Salalah, along the Indian Ocean with playful dolphins, rays and sea turtles, up the mountain towards Yemen with breathtaking views and out to the desert with sand and sand and sand.

Enjoyed the rich bird life around the oases, put on warning flashers as we stopped for passing camel caravans and tested the local cuisine. (dried camel meat rolled in dried camel fat gave the experience of fatty food a new meaning …)

With bare feet in warm sand, the desert is a breathtaking experience, especially as soon as you think of the scorpions … But it was amazing how fast the sand got cold as the sun went down. When dusk fell, several large beetles suddenly crept around us in the dunes, wondering if they were scarab beetles.

Slept under the open sky with only the blanket of the stars. (okay, you also needed a thick blanket around you, it got terribly cold). The starry sky was amazing, as everyone had said it would be in a desert far from civilization and its illumination. But must still admit that it did not differ in any remarkable way, from the one at home over our little cabin in the woods.

I froze from time to time and woke up several times during the night, followed the full moon that went up at my feet and passed over my head the last time I saw it. At dawn I was awakened by the insistent cry of a fox. Probably an Rüppell’s fox (Vulpes rueppelli) or maybe a Blanford´s fox (Vulpes cana). Both are quite small foxes with big ears, as the locals described them. Never saw it but heard the sound slowly diminish and disappear in the distance as the sun rose over the dunes.