Much of the land area that makes up the present day United Arab Emirates is composed of barren desert. In fact, until about forty years ago, someone sailing past the present day UAE’s Arabian Gulf shoreline would have been greeted by a seemingly endless expanse of sand dunes.
Since the discovery of oil in the 1960’s, the nation’s coastline has been transformed into a modern oasis thanks to one of history’s most incredible urban development projects. Skyscrapers and lush parks fed by millions of gallons of desalinated water now dominate a coastal landscape where once only scrub brush, date palms and sand dunes stood.
However, the Emirates’ interior remains largely unchanged, and someone seeking a Bedouin-style adventure need only wander several kilometers outside any major city to find it. The country’s shared southern border with Saudi Arabia is dominated by the world’s largest sand desert, the Rub’ al Khali or Empty Quarter. I ventured out into this vast wasteland during my recent visit to the UAE, and came away with a profound respect for the Bedouin people who learned to not only survive, but to thrive in one of the world’s most unforgiving biomes.
Check out more high-resolution shots from my trip in my set on Flickr.