Photographer Karen Willie travelled to Oman, and neighbouring Abu Dhabi, with her three children (aged 7, 8 and 10)
Glamping in the Omani desert, where you will find real the real desert of adventure stories with Lawrence of Arabia dunes stretching in every direction, is an unforgettable experience. About 4 hours drive from Muscat, the 1000 Desert Nights Camp, Wahibi Sands, is situated 30km from a tarmaced road. You will need a four wheel drive to navigate the tracks (the camp will come and collect you if you prefer) - it’s far enough away to feel like you’ve set off into the unknown, but near enough to be sure that you haven’t!
Nevertheless the journey was thrilling. The bedouin camps filled with camels and goats thinned out and very soon there was only Wahibi sands all around us. The map sent by 1000 Desert Nights Camp is like following a treasure map and after an hour of bouncing over the tracks and the sun starting to dip we arrived to the camp. The camp is simple, clean, spacious and totally surrounded by spectacular scenery: perfect for a couple of nights of desert adventure.
We were welcomed with cool towels and sweet tea. The camp is spacious and the tents are really generously spaced out with good, well lit paths. On arrival, the friendly staff whisk you off in a golf cart to your tent. We stayed in a huge Sheikh tent which turned out to be a romantic Bedouin style tent made of sheep and goat’s wool with shuttered windows. It’s spacious enough for two double beds and they are happy to add a single bed if needed. It’s simple but authentic and ours came with it’s own Cineraria tree to provide some shade. It has an electric light and a couple of sockets but no air conditioning or fans. A private bathroom, which is open to the sky, was real hit with the children who loved being able to see the stars whilst brushing their teeth. There are also some similar Arab tents with shared bathrooms available.
What We Did
Noah loved sandboarding down the dunes around the camp and even had a go at sand skiing. You need to get up early for such exertions as the heat makes it too tricky mid-day and scrambling up a sand dune needs a certain amount of dedication.
Lucia enjoyed the camel ride after breakfast but this can also be done at sunrise and sunset. We all went dune bashing which involved letting Mohammed take us in his Landcruiser for an hour’s adreline rush up and down the nearby dunes. It was thrilling - and beats sitting on the A3 any day!
Alfie loved seeing the desert rabbits, oryx and gazelle that live at the camp. Happily, there’s a very welcome swimming pool with good shade which we made plenty of use of.
The camp can also organise horse riding and desert trekking and at peak times they have Bedouin dancing and music in the restaurant.
There’s an atmospheric restaurant where you can sit on the floor in the traditional Arab way on large comfy cushions, or opt for regular tables and chairs. The children loved this. Supper was a barbecue and buffet with a good selection of Arab and international food such as pasta, salads, hummus, kebabs, rice and curry. Breakfast is also a plentiful traditional affair. Free water and soft drinks are always available.
- Ask for a tent on the edges of the camp as this adds to the tranquillity.
- Oman is malaria-free but don’t forget mosquito repellent and watch out for bugs.
- Drink lots of water and wear plenty of sunscreen.
When To Go
Oman is a perfect winter destination. Ideal for half term breaks and Christmas holidays. From around October to April the tempartures range from mid twenties to the thirties in late spring. Can be chilly in the desert at night so take warm clothes. Protect eyes and skin.
1000 Desert Nights Camp Prices
Check the website for the most current rates: www.1000nightscamp.com
A Sheikh Wool Tent with attached Bathroom, including dinner and breakfast, costs from £105 for two adults. Children under 5 are free. From 5 - 12, costs £12 per night, and 12 years and above costs £48 per night.
Dune bashing: One four wheel drive for one hour is £40 per person
Camel safari: Half day £80 per person or a ride around the camp £8 per person
Bespoke Tours arranged around Oman: Can be booked through www.audleytravel.com