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Megabarchans of Liwa

The Liwa Oasis is an arcuate string of developments on the northern edge of a unique and massive collection of giant dunes - megabarchans. These features are impossibly big, and try as we might, we could not quite capture the scale of them in these images. Some measure 300 m in height and over 1 km in width and have developments and roads on them (somehow) and date palm fields in the "canyons" between them. They were truly mountains of sand. We departed south from the cozy and refreshing Liwa Hotel toward Moreeb Dune, the site of major offroading competitions. The big dune itself is heavily crossed with tracks and is somewhat cordoned off, so we visited the interdune of the next big dune north of Moreeb. This was perhaps my favorite day, because we visited the range of morphologies in a megadune/interdune. I spent time looking at the salty and muddy interdune, we walked (and Ralph paced out) the extent of the small, marching interdune barchans, we walked/drove the entire interdune to the barchan arm and we walked partly up this arm to see some enigmatic red sands I could see from a distance. It turns out these are quite large (maybe 1 mm?), beautiful grains of red translucent quartz that accumulate on the stoss slope of the megas. Finally, we drove back to the massive slip face that I then decided to march up in the heat of the day to ride down with a sand board. I hope the picture I took from the top demonstrates just how high this felt to hike (don't forget two steps up, one back..). We had the added treat of being visited by some Emirati falconers who patiently watched my slow progress down hill on the sand board and then let us hold their beautiful birds.

GPS track of drive on Google Earth:

Download the .kmz file

GPS track of our dune in relation to Moreeb:

GPS track of interdune journey:

Panorama from dune summit:


Ralph tries his hand at the not-so-fast SAND BOARD.

All pics are below.

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Please credit Jani Radebaugh, thank you!