Heads up: female crossing of Arabian desert

Posted: Mar 15, 2012 10:11 am EDT

(Newsdesk) Hajar Ali sent over news about her motorized expedition through the Empty Quarters, a desert spanning UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The expedition, which will begin on March 15th in Abu Dhabi, will last some 12 days, ending in Salalah. She will also undertake a second expedition into the Iraqi Marshlands.

Here goes Hajar’s details about the expedition:

This will be a vehicle crossing and, if successful, would have me as the first woman in history to complete the crossing. The last woman to contemplate a crossing was the legendary female explorer Rosita Forbes in 1932, some 80 years before. This will also be an attempt at a record for the first female to cross the Empty Quarters.

The first documented crossing of the Empty Quarters was by Bertram Thomas in 1931, quickly followed by Abdullah Philby (father of double agent Kim Philby) in 1932. Prior to these crossings, Lawrence of Arabia, no stranger to desert exploration, had deemed the desert to be 'impassable':

"It will mark an era in exploration. It will finish our knowledge of the earth. Nothing but an airship can do it."

Empty Quarters and Iraqi Marshlands

This expedition will be a series of two trips, one into the Empty Quarters and another into the Iraqi Marshlands - designed to highlight the importance of protecting 'cultures on the edge', a term used by Donovan Webster as he accompanied photographer George Steinmetz who'd used a light-craft airplane to navigate through the Empty Quarters.

The two destinations (Empty Quarters and Iraqi Marshlands) had been chosen as these were the settings of legendary explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger's books - 'The Arabian Sands' and 'The Marsh Arabs', his two definitive books on travel in Arabia detailing the lifestyles of a people whose lifestyles were to be forever changed due to political, environmental and the economic realities of modernity.

The lifestyles of the Bedu of the Empty Quarters were forever changed due to the discovery of oil in the Empty Quarters and Wilfred Thesiger had documented this lifestyle on the cusp of its disappearance.

The Empty Quarters makes for an interesting counterpoint to the Iraqi Marshlands as there are ongoing efforts at re-creating conditions amenable for Marsh Arabs to return to the area. The two trips explore the role that tourism can play in preserving the lifestyles of cultures on the edge

The world's largest sand desert, the Empty Quarters (or Rub Al-Khali) is characterized by as much as the traditions of the Bedouins inhabiting its fringes as much as for its reputation for being one of the most extreme environments.

About Hajar, courtesy of Urbane Nomads Luxury Travel:

Hajar Ali, founder of Urbane Nomads, was travelling past the Dead Sea with her parents as a child when she had seen the solitary vision of a man, wrapped in all white, galloping a white horse on its shores. That moment inspired a lifelong fascination with horses and horse cultures; horse-themed trips forming a significant part of the trips offered by Urbane Nomads. A graduate of Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (now RSIS), Hajar lends an understanding of the complementary forces of international relations and her travel reflects a concern for the social, cultural and historical nuances of destinations visited.


courtesy Urbane Nomads

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