Translations available

Into the Empty Quarter

Following in the footsteps of the great explorer and travel writer, Wilfred Thesiger, my aim was to become a human camel, hauling a homemade cart with nearly 700 pounds of supplies for 1,000 miles across the Empty Quarter desert, from southern Oman to the glitzy madness of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

I knew instinctively that it was the very hardness of life in the desert which drew me back there, it was the same pull which takes men back to the polar ice, to high mountains, and to the sea.

Wilfred Thesiger, 1959

My head is thumping. My eyes are stinging. I’m weak with thirst. The dunes behind glow a deep shade of ochre. In front is nothing. Nothing at all. A gravel plain stretches to the horizon and for hundreds of miles beyond. I feel overwhelmed by the scale of the desert and by the hundreds of silent, scorching miles that still lie ahead. I haven’t showered or slept in a bed for weeks.

I’m hungry, thirsty, and weary from hauling heavy but tightly rationed supplies in a homemade cart. Yet there is nowhere on Earth that I would rather be. This is the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, on the Arabian Peninsula. I have waited 15 years to get here.

In England, inspiration and history lurk around every corner, making it a fine place for a young man to be when he first begins to dream of adventure. I was at Oxford University when I first read about explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger. He studied there and daydreamed there, like me.

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