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Rub Al Khali

Al Ain serves as the gateway to the southeastern most reaches of the deep desert - the Rub Al Khali, or Empty Quarter. We drove past unbelievably high volumes of sand organized into massive linear dunes stretching as far as we could see in most directions. And that was just one small corner of the Saudi desert. The road traversed south, slicing right through the linear dunes oriented E-W so we got a nice cross section of the dunes and a variety of interdunes - muddy, dark from distant ophiolite outcrops, and pure white from local carbonate interdune deposition. We had big plans to drift all the way south to the border of the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia, and then curve around to the west to hit the big barchans, but we were turned away just shy of the intersection. We decided to stop near here to spend time at a single dune and interdune, and found a spectacular location. We walked the crest of the big dune under the hot sun, sent a scout to the border fence (Martin), and then dropped down into the bright white carbonate interdune to walk back to the car. From the dune crest you could see linear dune after linear dune, all lined up in the distance. This was one of my favorite days of the trip, standing on this big, discrete linear dune and seeing its companions marching off into the distance. As we headed north, we stopped at other interdunes and even paused to fly Ralph's kite with camera.

GPS track of drive on Google Earth:

Download the .kmz file

GPS track of dune hike on Google Earth:

Download the .kmz file

GPS track of dune hike on Google Earth, zoomed:

Panorama from dune summit:

Picture from Ralph's kite cam:

All pics are below.

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Please credit Jani Radebaugh, thank you!