At our first parking space in the Wahiba Sands desert, the organizer of a local off-road dune safari asks us if we would like to spend the next day with them. Not with Shujaa, but in their own vehicles, because that would make no sense at all due to the route and the different vehicle capabilities in dunes. We are still a little hesitant and want to think about it by tomorrow morning. When it is already dark, he comes by again in his jeep: they have in the meanwhile set up a large camp with a kitchen etc. on the top of a high dune and we are invited to dinner … so we could get to know the participants of tomorrow’s safari in advance.
Now we can no longer say “No”, jump into the parked jeeps and get a foretaste of tomorrow. In absolute darkness, it goes up the steepest dunes at full speed, the sand splashes up in the spotlight of the lamps and the vehicles are sometimes in an extremely inclined position. Then we have reached their base camp: Omani tea and coffee on huge carpets await us…..although I would be more inclined to have a cold beer or a glass of wine, as the stocks we bought in the Emirates are threateningly running out and we have no possibility to fill up our stock in Oman 😉. There is also a kitchen team consisting of three people who take care of the physical well-being. In the course of the evening, a total of 30 cars with 45 participants come together. The atmosphere is very relaxed, we are integrated directly into the group, and we can also talk to a number of participants in English. These are wealthy Omanis, even a few sheikhs are there, the jeeps are high-end and quite new. One of them thinks Karin is really great, she is of course the only female participant on the safari 😉. At the end of the great evening, we are chauffeured down from the dune to the Shujaa parked below.
After a rather short night, our drivers are back at our front door at 7:00 am.: the schedule is tight. After breakfast together, the adventure starts. A total of seven extensive dune valleys are to be crossed. all participants are passionate desert drivers and the equipment is of high quality, but of the 30 cars that have started only about 10 make it to the finish on the actual route. The drop-out is considerable, be it due to material damage or due to the driver’s decision to abort because the route is too difficult or he no longer has the desire to be “pulled out of the dunes” so frequently.
For us it is a completely new experience in terms of driving skills and exploring the limits. It is also extremely interesting to follow the social interactions of the group: the sheikhs are looked upon by the other participants and try to give their best when it comes to driving skills (which is not always the best among the group). Together we cheer when most of them have made it up and down the dunes without major accidents. A day that is unique for us in every dimension, ends in the afternoon after an extensive lunch.
Of course, all participants are enthusiastic about Shujaa and our world travel project. The next day we have 40 more Omani Instagram fans and more invitations to desert safaris in the coming weeks.
Even if the dune skills of light jeeps with a lower center of gravity and much shorter wheelbase cannot be compared with Shujaa’s capabilities, I of course have to do my own sandpit games with Shujaa the next day in a quiet valley of the Wahiba Sands … and once again I am extremely surprised how capable Shujaa is in the sand.