That night I stayed in a hotel room on the gas station complex a few kilometres out of Al Batha, which in itself is less of a town but a port and transit area for movements across the border. The last time I passed through the area was in 2021 when I transited the 'Empty Quarter' on the new Rub Al Khali Highway opened in October 2015. The Saudi highway without doubt equals some of the greatest feats of transport civil engineering in the world. Not only does it traverse one of the most isolated and formidable desert regions on earth, the literal movement of sand on which it was built made it nearly an impossible task. Historically it resonated with my early reading of Wilfred Thesigers travels across it throughout the 1920's and along with his recollections of the 'Marsh Arabs'. I enjoyed every moment of thinking I understood why he would want to be here.
“No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.”
April 2021 - Crossing the Empty Quarter by Motorcycle
“In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquility was to be found there.”
The road starts from the Ibri roundabout in Oman in Al Dhahirah Governorate and heads in a straight line to the Saudi border where I was showered with cold drinks and yoghurt from various fridges at the customs office - they had not before seen a motorcycle cross this area and it made me wonder if I was the first to use the road it having only recently being built and the fact Saudi had only that year opened it's borders to travellers. It ends at the Saudi Batha intersection and when I arrived this time by bicycle, only my time constraints stopped me from a second crossing. It's quite a road, covering a length of 725 kms, passing through the Empty Quarter desert - 161 km in the Sultanate and the rest 564 kms in Saudi Arabia.
Map of the Day