Expedition successfully recreates the first-ever desert crossing of the Empty Quarter
The Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS), through the Nomas Centre, organized a welcoming ceremony for the Tahaddi Arabia team to celebrate their historic achievement of crossing the Empty Quarter on foot.
The milestone marked only the second such instance of its kind in the Arabian history, as the travelers covered an estimated distance of 1,300 kilometers whilst retracing the footsteps of the original fete in 1930 by a group of Omani and British explorers, which went on to enjoy legendary status amongst travelers of the vast desert.
The team, which included Omani travelers Mohammed Zadjali, Amer Al-Wahaibi, and British traveler Mark Evans, reached the Qatari border on the morning of Sunday 24th January. They were greeted by the children from the Nomas Centre and spent the night out in the open desert in what was a reflection of the travelers’ experience. The journeymen were then taken to a desert area popular with Qataris, where tents were setup to spend the night out in the open area. The visitors received the best of the local hospitality.
The caravan eventually moved to its final destination on the morning of Wednesday 27th January: the Rayyan Castle, bringing to full circle the route covered by the earlier explorers in 1930. They were received by His Excellency Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani, President of Qatar Olympic Committee, His Excellency Mr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Aifan, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Qatar, His Excellency Mr. Mohammed bin Nasser Al-Wahaibi, the Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Qatar, His Excellency Mr. Ajay Sharma, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Qatar, and a number of senior state officials.
The journey ‘Tahaddi Arabia’ got underway in Salalah, Oman, on the 10th of December 2015, and continued across Saudi Arabia through to the Empty Quarter, culminating in Qatar. The travelers attempted to retrace the footsteps of British explorer Bertram Thomas accompanied by Sheikh Saleh bin Klute from Oman who sought to cross the Empty Quarter nearly 85 years ago in 1930.
Mark Evans, Expedition Leader, said:
“After 49 days on foot and by camel, from Salalah, through Oman and Saudi Arabia, we finally reached our destination in Qatar and successfully recreated the first-ever crossing of the largest sand desert on earth, the Rub Al Khali. In his book, Arabia Felix, written in 1931, British explorer Bertram Thomas wrote ‘we came to the top of a small rise, and there before us lay the towers of Doha. Our journey was over, and we looked forward to wonderful Qatari hospitality’.
“Our own journey is also now over, and whilst Doha has seen incredible change in 85 years, that wonderful hospitality still remains, for which we are extremely grateful.”
The Empty Quarter is regarded as one of the world’s hottest and driest isolated deserts. It spans an area of 650,000 square kilometers covering the Arabian Peninsula, as it stretches across Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Its’ expanse is roughly the size of France, Belgium and the Netherlands combined. The temperatures in the Empty Quarter during the summer reach up to more than 50C, while dropping below zero in winter.
The scientific, geographical and historical knowledge of the team strongly contributed to the success of the trip. Indeed, the team is relied on technologies and gadgets in order to facilitate their safety. Their journey can be recapped on www.crossingtheemptyquarter.com