If you are looking for the full desert experience complete with sandy dunes and camels, head to Sharqiya sands of Oman. Sharqiya sands are formerly known as Wahiba sands, which is the name of the tribe that lived there, but it was renamed to avoid disputes between tribes.
Sharqiya Sands – Why it’s a Top Desert Choice for Solo Female Travellers
Sarqiya Sands in Oman is a great alternative to camel trekking in Morocco. Whilst the desert dunes of Merzouga are stunning, I found Shaqiya sands in Oman to be a much more relaxed experience travel-wise. In my opinion, Oman tops the list for the country with the best desert experience.
Dune bashing in Dubai really made feel sick! I never felt that Dubai was an authentic desert experience – it felt a bit fabricated and somewhat too geared up for tourists. Morocco was amazing, but in all honesty, you do get hassle in the cities as a tourist there – particularly as a solo female traveller in the souks of Marrakech.
Sharqiya sands was an amazing experience and my top desert experience in travel so far. Oman feels like the perfect balance between cultural immersion and safety. Grab a guide and away you go!
When to go to Sharqiya Sands
You want to avoid Sharqiya sands in the hottest months – May to September. In the summer it is way too hot to visit Sharqiya sands. People dehydrate there and most Omanis leave during this time. The best time to go is October to March. I was there in March and the temperature was just about tolerable with plenty of water, sun screen and a sun hat. A month down the line I would have probably melted!!!
Gettng to Sharqiya Sands
It is very important to take a guide with you who drives a 4 wheel drive. If you are travelling long distances in the desert you should have 2 X guides and 4 wheel drive going in convoy. It’s vital that you do not attempt to drive to and in the desert yourself if you are not Omani – the dunes are near impossible to navigate and one wrong turn or a car breakdown and you could be stranded and fried! My guide Idrees told me that two Swiss tourists got stranded in the Omani desert a couple of years ago – they were found dead after a couple of days.
I repeat – DO NOT GO INTO THE DESERT ALONE!
You can book a trip to Sharqiya sands on Get Your Guide or Viator travel. If you are looking for a good local guide get in touch with me – I can recommend Idrees who is the best Omani tour guide that I found!
Visiting Sharqiya sands as a Tourist
You will have a unique experience visiting Sharqiya sands. It’s great to see the camels and trek on some of the sand dunes. Dune bashing and sand boarding are popular activities. If you are interested in fortresses and Mosques you can hire a guide to take you to Fort Almntarib and Hamouda Al-Masjid (the Mosque domes). But most people mainly visit for the beautiful landscape and the experience.
Visiting the Camels
When you see camels, remember to approach them gently and quietly from the front not behind (they can kick!) Also if they have someone looking after them it’s polite to ask if it’s ok for you to approach.
Camel rides can be organised, but let me tell you this – camel riding is much more of a challenge than you might think. When you get on the camel he/she will tip you forward when they get up, because they get up with their back legs first! Also they spit and kick and are not so comfortable. But you may well want to do a camel ride for the experience. Regarding the ethics of camel riding – check with your guide that the camels you are riding are well looked after.
Camping in the Desert
It is possible to camp in the desert in Berber tents. There are some great luxury desert camps that have been set up in Shaqiya sands and I would recommend Desert Retreat Camp. The Berber tents are comfortable to sleep in and the camp had washing and toilet facilities (be prepared for no toilet roof haha!) It’s a proper Arabic experience.
What to Pack for Sharqiya Sands
There are some absolute essentials that you will need to take to the desert. A decent water bottle is vital as it gets very hot and tourists are at risk of dehydration because they are not used to the climate. I recommend a life straw water bottle which has an inbuilt filter system.
A scarf is essential – not because you will need to cover your head as a cultural expectation but because it will protect you from the heat. However, it’s a good idea to get a relatively plain scarf and then you can wear it for visiting Mosques too. A good wide brimmed sun hat will also serve you well in the desert climate of Sharqiya sands.
Make sure that you have a comfortable pair of walking boots fro the desert. I got my waterproof and breathable ones from Trespass for £65.
Also do pack a simple first aid kit, which should include plasters, antiseptic, antihistamines (for bites) and Dioralyte rehydration sachets. It should also contain your regular medication if you have any (such as asthma inhalers) and basic drugs such as paracetomol, ibuprofen and cold medicine. Yes, it is possible to catch a cold in the desert – there are different germs and climates that make us susceptible!
Further Reading on Oman
If you are travelling in Oman, you might also like to read…