THE EMPTY QUARTER

UAE 2018 | ABU DHABI | PHOTO ESSAY: THE EMPTY QUARTER

Epic sand dunes and majestic oasis settlements dot the UAE portion of The Empty Quarter, or “Rub Al Khali," the largest continuous sand desert in the world.

Arabian Sands is a must read for intrepid travellers and visitors to the Arabian peninsula, detailing as it does the experience of British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who, in the 1940s, undertook a journey through the dunes of The Empty Quarter, a majestic sand desert covering parts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen, and the oasis towns of Liwa, an hour and a half south of the city of Abu Dhabi.

Liwa is at the top of most itineraries for visitors to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The area is 100km from east to west, and home to around 20,000 people living across a few dozen villages. The area has historically sustained itself economically on date farming, although the increasing popularity of the region with visitors means that tourism is also a key source of income.

The oasis-dotted region is of historic significance for the UAE as the birthplace of the ruling families of both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Al Nahyan family moved its residence from Liwa to Abu Dhabi in 1793.
In recent years, the region has also begun to welcome sports enthusiasts, drawn to Tel Moreeb, the world's tallest sand dune at over 300m high with a 50-degree incline. In winter, four-wheel drivers and quad bikers compete in the Moreeb Hill Climb spectacle, a part of the larger Liwa International Festival, which includes races featuring cars, bikes, falcons, camels, and horses, as well as culinary attractions and other family entertainment.