The Wahiba Sands – a soft sand desert in northeastOman. Two hundred kilometers from north tosouth; a hundred from east to west. Long dunes runnorth to south, long lines of sand, always changing,always moving in the wind.
On its west side, Wahiba is a long wall of red sand,fi fty or sixty meters high. It runs slowly down on tothe empty desert, which is the center of Oman. Hard,stony and fl at as a table, this desert is the eastern sideof the great rub‘ al-khali, the Empty Quarter.
In the east, the dunes of sand run down on to long,empty beaches. Crabs and seabirds live there byday, and green turtles often come out of the sea tolay their eggs by night. After the beaches, there isonly the deep blue-green water of the Arabian Seafor fifteen hundred kilometers to Gujarat in northernIndia.
The sands of Wahiba are empty and quiet. There isno sound. Nothing bigger than a lizard can live in thegreat sea of soft, red-gold sand; nothing bigger thanmarram grass can grow there. You hear nothing butthe blood in your ears, and the hot dry air going in and out of your mouth.
To walk in the soft sand is difficult. It pulls yourfeet as you walk. Your legs soon hurt and you gettired very quickly. To move at all is hard work.
And, of course, in the day the hot sun is alwaysthere. The air is hot, the sand is hot. There is nowhereyou can go away from the sun, no tree as far as youcan see.
In the sky above the blue-green Indian Ocean, asmall plane is coming from the east. Red and white,two engines, the only sound in the quiet sky.