“Here, wash your hand in the bowl first, your right hand. Are you sure that’s your right hand?” our guide gently teased my ten year old son as he dipped his hand in to the cool water in the silver spouted bowl. “Now, here, dates” and he opened the wicker basked, letting my son pick out a sticky date, fresh and tasty.
We were in the middle of the Sharqiya Sands, part of the desert in Oman, around two hours west of Muscat. We had travelled here in our four wheel drive convey which at one point had involved us getting stuck in the red coloured sand and our guide took over, calmly but decisively freeing the tyres and allowing our car to shoot up the sand effortlessly.
Watching the sun set across these sands had been wonderful, the dusty sun turning the huge mountains of sand deep pinks and reds.
The children had clambered up the sand dunes, roamed around by themselves across the top and slid down them like huge slides at a fun fair. They picked up small twigs, shrieked at a desert lizard who ran under their feet and felt as the heat of the desert sun dropped as the sun itself descended.
At the bottom of the hill, once the sun had cast its final beam over us, our two guides set a fire and made coffee in typical Bedouin fashion. Then the ritual of passing around the dates, a symbol of Omani hospitality, began. One which all of us dug in to.
As dusk turned to darkness our train of cars made their way back through the sand to our camp for the night, the Nomadic Desert Camp, considered to be one of the most authentic for visitors wanting to get an insight in to the Bedouin tribes life. There is no electricity or wifi, only squat loos and very basic accommodation and it was perfect.
Nomadic Desert Camp, Oman is owned by a Bedouin family who have lived in the Sharqiya Sands for generations. They began in the early 1990s, taking visitors on to the sands for guided camel safaris and then expanded to the camp which while fixed in place, offers a really unique glimpse into the beautiful desert life.
When we returned to the camp dinner was ready – a delicious feast of aubergine curry, a dhal, rice, houmus and flat bread, alongside some meat for those who wanted it. It was lovely to sit out, lanterns glowing and the children watching a beetle as he tip-toed around us, making tracks in the sand.
The darkness brought a huge sky with millions of stars blinking constantly and a crescent moon shining down. We paused in the stillness of the desert to watch out for shooting stars and just take in this magical setting.
Then it was back to our tent for bed – others in the group sat out drinking coffee and chatting into the night but we headed back with the children, pulling the mosquito nets around us and breathing in the hot air.
I slept lightly, waking to the sounds of mosquitos which more spray seemed to keep at bay for the rest of the night. In the morning a cacophony of bird song and insect melodies filled the air, so unexpected in the desert and wonderful to hear. We all climbed out of bed, it was still early and the children stretched sleepily. Across the sand in front of the tent the prints made by the insects and creatures of the night were beautiful trails, like intricate sewing patterns.
Breakfast was pancakes, eggs and juices in the little dining area at one end of the camp. It set us up perfectly for the day.
Then the children had the opportunity to ride the tribes camels, groaning and smiling unpleasantly at us from just outside the camp’s gates. I have looked in to the ethics of camel riding as I’m so concerned with animal welfare and while I know elephant riding is now frowned upon, camel riding seems to be seen more in the same light as horse riding, as long as the animals are well looked after. Having seen camels across the world, in places like Tunisia, Egypt and the Canary Islands, I can say these were the calmest, happiest camels I have come across and I was happy to let the children ride them.
My ten and eight year olds hopped on, lurching backwards and then sharply forwards as these cumbersome creature rose from the sand. They walked out with them, up across the dunes, experiencing the nomadic tribes traditional transport, although most now rely on four wheel drives of their own!
We also had an opportunity to try camel’s milk, something I just couldn’t bring myself to but I was so impressed that my oldest son was willing to give it a go. Even the other adults in the group didn’t want to try but he jumped straight in. His verdict? “A bit like normal milk but a bit camely”! My eight year old daughter also had a sip, she wasn’t too impressed but said she was pleased to have tried it.
We had a final look around our camp – it really was a beautiful place, warming in temperature and in welcome. My children were particularly taken with the camel bones in the middle of the camp!
Our time in the Nomadic Desert Camp, Oman in the Sharqiya Sands was magical. It was one of those experiences to remember forever and to pinch ourselves that we actually did it. It was a wonderful experience for the children who declared it one of their favourite stays ever.
Find out more about the Nomadic Desert Camp, Oman here – http://www.nomadicdesertcamp.com/ and read my top tips for visiting a desert camp, Oman below:
- Take mosquito spray and use it – as darkness fell I was convinced there were none around but in the middle of the night they appeared.
- Take some bottles of water with you – they will be provided but it’s good to have extra for the middle of the night.
- Pack a small night bag for your trip – everything else can remain locked up in your car next to the camp.
- Take towels and torches – they will be provided if you forget but it’s good to take you own.
- Put suncream on before you even leave your tent in the morning – the sun is fierce even at this time of the day.
- Be prepared for the heat – we visited in early April and it was incredibly hot.
- You want to see a picture of the loos don’t you…..here you go!
We were guests of Nomadic Desert Camp, Oman but as always all opinions are our own.