Is Dubai in the Sahara

Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter), Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia

The Rub al-Khali in the south of the Arabian Peninsula is the largest sea of ​​sand in the world and one of the most hostile regions on our planet. The completely uninhabited area lives up to its name “Empty Quarter”.

The Rub al-Khali in the south of the Arabian Peninsula is the largest sandy desert in the world with an area of ​​around 780,000 km² - almost the size of Turkey. Many believe that this title fell to the Sahara, but it only consists of a total of 20% sandy desert and the largest so-called erg (sand area) in northern Algeria "only" covers an area of ​​around 150,000 km².

The Rub al-Khali is located in the south of the Arabian Peninsula and extends over the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. It lives up to its name “Empty Quarter”, because hardly a soul actually lives in the Rub al-Khali. Only spiders, a few rodents and isolated plants can be found in the Rub al-Khali, which can withstand the tremendous temperature fluctuations from the night-time freezing point to 60 ° C during the day.

PICTURES: Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter)


The first crossing of this completely hostile area was not possible until 1946. The British explorer Wilfred Thesiger wanted to find out where the pests came from after the locust invasion and received permission from King Ibn Saudi, the first king of modern Saudi Arabia, to do so to look for their nests.

Tip: If you want to know more about Thesiger's research trips, you should visit the Museum of Salalah.

To date, the Rub al-Khali - apart from satellite images, has hardly been explored. The Bedouins have withdrawn completely to the edge of the desert and the caravan trains, which were still on the way up to around 300 AD and helped the legendary city of Ubar to its wealth, no longer take the risk of crossing them.

Out and about in the Rub al-Khali

Despite its hostile conditions, the endless emptiness of the Rub al-Khali fascinates people. Nowhere else can you leave the stress and noise of the business world behind you as much as in the complete silence of the desert. Excursions into the spectacular sand sea should, however Not alone and only with a local guide to be undertaken! Only at the edge of the desert can you drive into the first, already very powerful dunes in an off-road vehicle without complete desert equipment.

Tip: Some tour operators organize expeditions with off-road vehicles to the Rub al-Khali. The multi-day tours including the breathtaking starry sky at night are absolutely unforgettable experiences!

Liwa oasis

In the south of Abu Dhabi, which belongs to the United Arab Emirates, the green sickle of the approximately 100 km long Liwa oasis shimmers in the middle of the golden-yellow sand desert. The huge oasis in the north of the Rub al-Khali is not fully planted and actually consists of 50 smaller oases and almost 40 villages, in which around 20,000 people live. The life-giving spot in the Rub al-Khali can be reached via the two roads E12 and E65, which continue on to the E11 in the direction of Abu Dhabi City.

Camel races in the Liwa oasis

If you are into camels, you should definitely visit the Liwa oasis in mid-December. The traditional Al-Dhafra festival is held every year at this time. On this occasion, camel owners from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia meet for the annual camel race. In a fascinating city of Bedouin tents, not only the fastest but also the most beautiful camel is chosen, there are also numerous markets and traditional events.

Moreeb dune

The seemingly endless sand dunes of the desert reach a height of over 200 meters. The highest of them is called Moreeb Dune. From Mezairaa, the center of the Liwa oasis, an asphalt road leads around 25km through the spectacular desert landscape to the Moreeb dune. The journey alone is worth the trip!

The steep sand dune appears to rise vertically with an incline of 50 degrees. With a height of 120m, the Moreeb dune is over 200m above sea level and is therefore one of the highest sand dunes in the world. No wonder that the Moreeb dune was chosen as the perfect location for the so-called dune racing. The sensational spectacle of the “Moreeb Dune Cars and Bikes Championship”, in which the participants try to drive up to the ridge of the dune in tuned vehicles, attracts sports tourists from all over the world every year.

Wabar crater

In 1932, the British explorer Harry Philby roamed the Rub al-Khali in search of the legendary desert city of Ubar, which, according to the Koran, was swallowed by the desert at the behest of Allah. After about a month, he came across an area about half a square kilometer, covered in chunks of white sandstone and black glass.

The analysis showed that some of the chunks came from an iron meteorite, the rounded depressions, some of which had almost disappeared in the sand, confirmed the assumption of a meteorite impact in the Rub al-Khali. He called the crater landscape because of a wrong translation of "Ubar" "Wabar".

Three impact craters are now visible on modern maps, the largest of which has a diameter of 116 m. The most massive piece of extraterrestrial iron recovered from it has a mass of 2.2 tons and is now on display in the National Museum of Saudi Arabia.

All three craters have now almost completely disappeared in the sand. It is not clear when the impact of the 3,500-ton meteorite occurred; estimates range from 260 years ago to a few thousand years ago.