And it was here an ambitious journey was born – crossing the Empty Quarter, ‘the biggest sand desert on Earth, stretching across Saudi Arabia into Oman, Yemen and UAE – and largely unchanged for some 20,000 years’.
Evans is a natural story teller. Those attending his lecture at the RGS-IBG were mesmerised by the tale of Bertram Thomas, the first European to cross Arabia’s vast Rub al Khali in 1931 and Evan’s bid to retrace his steps some 85 years later. In his book, Evans has brought to life, with facts and wit, his team’s 49 days and nights, on foot and camel, from Salalah in south Oman northwards for 1,300km through Saudi Arabia to Doha in Qatar. Crossing the Empty Quarter is Mark’s personal journal, linking the desert explorers of the past with a close look at this little known desert today. For students of history and geography, this is a rich picking. Mark’s daily accounts capture the joy and woe of sand desert travel, the infinite hospitality of the Bedu, high sand dunes, rain and fog, and shenanigans with camels. Superbly illustrated, the stories are interspersed with historical photographs, maps and writings from Bertram’s original account Arabia Felix – Across the Empty Quarter of Arabia.
Evans team’s journey (seen by 165 million from 170 countries on the internet) will surely inspire others to spend nights outdoors under the stars around fires, sharing stories and reflecting on issues that impact their future, underpinned by Bedu virtues of patience, good humour, generosity, loyalty and courage. Some things just cannot be taught in the classroom.