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Liwa Oasis and the Empty Quarter

Heading out southwest from Abu Dhabi slightly inland from the coast and then due south on the E45 road led us over vast, rolling sand dunes which merge into the Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter). This area of UAE which lies in the Abu Dhabi Emirate includes two important oases with adequate underground water for permanent settlements and cultivation. One such oasis, where we headed for is Liwa Oasis which is about 150km from the city of Abu Dhabi. The Liwa Oasis is a large oasis area about 100km inland and stretches about 100 km east-west, along an arch curved to the north. It consists of some 50 villages. The geographic and economic centre of the oasis is Mezairaa (Muzayri), where we filled up with fuel. From Mezairaa we made our way on more minor roads where the sand dunes started to become more prominent in size for a further 25 km south to our first main sight of the day, Moreeb Dune.
Moreeb Dune is one of the highest sand hills in the world. The dune is 1600 metres long, over 300 metres high (approx 1000 ft.) and the 50° incline to the top makes it a prime destination for motor sports enthusiasts. Because of its steep slopes, it was given the name Moreeb Dune which means 'Scary Mountain'. In February, the region's most powerful four wheel drives, quad bikes and dirt bikes compete in the Moreeb Hill Climb event. Alas, there was no sign of any activity on our visit although the base of the hill had a large flat area for the organising of such events. The hill was certainly impressive, although bearing in mind the sheer height, incline and the fact it is, well, sand, no attempt to try and walk up it was even imaginable.
After Moreeb hill, the road back in the direction of Mezairaa became temporarily blocked by a train of camels. They did not appear to have a person to guide them. They seemed to be wandering away from one small oasis we had just passed and basically using the road, because it is easier.
Our next destination was to drive right up to the Saudi Arabian Border on the southern side of UAE (as per the green line heading east and south from [12] on my map). Although marked on some maps as undefined, on others it clearly is. Entering Saudi Arabia is near-impossible to many people and so it came as no surprise, that a few hours on ever increasingly minor roads (still metalled) and heading even further inside the Empty Quarter, we eventually found ourselves in the middle of nowhere facing one seriously evil looking massive desert fence. This was Saudi Arabia on the other side. There were signs suggestive that any attempt to get over the fence or take photos of it would cause serious problems. The fact is at this point geographically, now in The Empty Quarter (The Rub' al Khali), we found ourselves in the largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. On the other side of the fence continuing south through Saudi Arabia lies hundreds of miles of sand, sky and pure nothingness in an unforgiving climate until eventually reaching the Indian Ocean. The desert sand did, in places, give way to a variety of contrasting colours and surprised me in its beauty. Photo [27] below probably best illustrates this.
[Note: A map may be useful as a guide to the following text.]
Our plan was to then follow a road which continues inside UAE roughly following the Saudi border eastwards to near the three-way border of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The road would then take us northwards following close to the Omani border to the city of Al-Ain (marked [1] on my map). The route is by and large surfaced road bar the first part - an approx. 30km stretch of track in the sand, really only suitable for lorries and 4WD's. A short experimental attempt at this section, followed by a decision to do a U-turn and a miscalculated manoeuvre led to our car getting completely stuck in the sand maybe two to three hundred yards from the road. Two locals appeared from nowhere with a shovel to help dig us out to no avail. They managed to wave down a truck which had appeared from where we clearly weren't now heading. With the help of the truck and an impromptu tow rope, made from haulage straps, we were able to pull the car out and return it to its natural state, on a proper road. We couldn't thank the locals enough for helping us out and the offer of a tip was turned down. Perhaps the sheer pleasure of kindness they have and a little bit of entertainment for them was enough.
The planned route to Al-Ain was subsequently abandoned and we drove there via the outskirts of Abu-Dhabi city. On an end note here, the sunset that day was very spectacular over the desert. Although our planet only has one Sun, it was uncannily reminiscent of the scene with Luke Skywalker watching a sunset in the film Star Wars.
[Photos to be labelled at a later date. There is no photo of the Saudi Border Fence; I really wouldn't want to get arrested in the middle of nowhere]