Also known as the Sands of A’Sharqiyah, the Wahiba Sands are among the most favoured of all the deserts of Oman when it comes to tourist sites, for they are singularly attractive, an aesthetic landscape of earthy colours quite unlike the usual desolate image that comes to mind when the word “desert” is mentioned. This is undoubtedly where tourists in Oman should go if they are seeking a desert adventure or wish to play Lawrence of Arabia for a few days.
The real beauty of the Wahiba Sands is that for a desert, they are remarkably easy to navigate and conquer. Yes, they stretch for a considerable area-probably as much as 10,000 sq. km.-but this does not render them inaccessible. There are a good number of oases spread through it, including Badiyah, the most common jump-off spot for those looking to enter the sands. There are also others, such as Shahik and the splendid Al Hawiyah, the most sizeable of the oases of these sands. The latter has some gorgeously steep inclines that people use for skiing (on sand skis, of course).
Besides the oases are numerous camps used by tourist guides, travel companies promoting events and activities, as well as the native nomads themselves: the Bedouins. The Bedouins actually participate regularly in several of the tourist activities most popular in the sands. For instance, it is they who are responsible for raising, training, and providing the camels that are often used in the camel races held here.
There is a medley of other activities you can try out or watch for yourself in the sands, from dune hopping via buggies to horse racing and even the aforementioned sand skiing. Four wheel drive races are also extremely popular, not to mention exciting in the sands. It is best to take on these activities only with the help of a guide, however, despite the relative friendliness of these sands compared to others. This is still the desert, after all, and it is still a large expanse. Especially in summer, you are likely to get in trouble if you have no guide or professional navigator coming with you on your trip. For one thing, you should be aware that while there are desert camps, there are no petrol stops, strictly speaking, in the area. There is also a spike in danger in the desert whenever there is a spike in heat, and it is best not to risk a trip by yourself. It would be tempting fate.
That aside, the Wahiba Sands are definitely a place to visit if ever you are in the country. Most people visit them when in transit from Muscat to Sur or the other way around. The sands stretch between these two cities in the country, and they are thus popular with those residing in these towns. Take note that it may be worthwhile to interact with the Bedouins themselves if you have a guide who speaks the language and run into them: they can be most fascinating and also have some interesting wares you might purchase.