Swaying palm trees, sugary sands and excursion vers merzouga départ de marrakech blue water. Forested hills and sundrenched valleys. A horizon of sparkling skyscrapers and cultural treasures. Most people envision holidays at the beach, in the mountains, or a sophisticated and international metropolis. While these are, of course, well-beloved options for a reason, the more discerning and adventurous travelers might find themselves wanting more, a new experience, unlike any other.
Enter the ancient wonders of the desert in the Arabian Peninsula. Long seen as one of the most inhospitable and rugged places on earth, it is also filled with raw natural beauty and centuries of culture as shifting and magical as the sand dunes. Known as Rub al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, this sand sea is larger than France – and certainly not devoid of romance and adventure, as its name might suggest. As more and more desert resorts spring up nearby, it is easier than ever to explore this unique corner of the world in style. Here are five great desert experiences that show why you should book your holiday at a desert resort now.
5. Archery and falconry: Learn about two long-cherished traditions of the nomadic Bedouin people of this area: archery and falconry. In a land where predators and prey can spot each other from far away across the sands, the use of bow and arrow or falcon provided a distinct advantage. Beyond survival, though, archery and falconry have been elevated to an art form in the region. Contact your desert resort about training and guidance to learn more about these fascinating native sports.
4. Hot air balloon rides at dawn: With the evening’s chill still lingering in the air, climb into the balloon’s basket and lift off for a breathtaking excursion over the desert landscape. Watch a maze of dunes change colours in the dawn’s shifting light from the perspective of a circling falcon in your balloon. Arrangements for this adventure can be made through your desert resort or other local agencies.
3. Walks in the desert: If the Empty Quarter’s beauty as experienced from above is awe-inspiring in its breathtaking grandeur, then the experience down below is more about the surprising nuances seen at eye-level. Patterns traced in the sand by trade winds, elusive beetles and birds tucked into shrub, the changing light on the dunes – all can be enjoyed on a long walk through the desert. Check to see if your desert resort has trails that lead out into the wilderness so you can explore at your leisure.
2. Camel trekking: Explore the alien landscape of Rub al Khali as the ancient nomadic traders and herders used to do – on the back of a camel. Built for the harsh realities of the desert environment, these gangly creatures actually provide a comfortable ride across the endless sands and arching blue skies. A desert resort, like Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara outside Abu Dhabi, can arrange a camel trek for you.
1. Traditional dinner under the stars: Though temperatures can soar into the 40s (Celsius) during the blazing afternoon, the evening brings relief, as the sands cool down and the starry multitude splashes across the sky. Around a crackling campfire with a large canvas tent set up nearby, experience all the romance and allure the desert has to offer. The rugged landscape of the hills and dunes take on a surreal beauty under the moonlight, and the cool air makes the bonfire feel good. At this moment, you will wonder why you ever thought of going on holiday anywhere else.