Rub’ al Khali

Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia

Photo Credit: Simon Keller

While it may be sweltering, and you might finds yourself in need of drink, the sheer vastness of these sand dunes is no mirage. Rub’ al Khali, or “The Empty Quarter,” is the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the entire world. Stretching over 400 miles, this sea of sandhills holds many secrets within its barriers.

At first glance, one may expect that in a “hyper-arid” climate, resources and wildlife would be hard to find. However, lying underneath the immense sand layer are deep waterways and groundwater, and rains can sometimes create large lakes within the region as well. Due to this wealth of water, many an oasis can be found throughout the Quarter, providing habitats for different forms of plants, rodents, and perhaps the occasional lost traveler. Here, we see a freestanding restroom. How one might find themselves at this location is a bit of an unknown, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Though the name suggests the region to be a lonely place, it has never been fully empty. Up until about 300 AD, caravans would cross the Rub’ al Khali as part of the ancient frankincense trade until the route became too difficult. Legend has it that the lost city of Iram of Pillars lies beneath the hot sands, lost to an angry god in Atlantis-like fashion. Many local tribes today still call the sands of the Quarter home as they have for hundreds of years, including the Al Murrah, Banu Yam, and Bani Yas.

Surrounded by beautiful mountains of sand and miles of red-colored waves, there are many positives to venturing out into an area of the world known for being empty, not to mention there are no lines for the bathroom.

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