Sleeping in the Desert of Oman: My Ultimate Guide

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Moving to a new country every two years

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Welcome, dear reader, to the magical world of the Oman Desert!

Sleeping in the desert in Oman has been one of my life’s best experiences. When the local guide left me when I had set up the tent, I felt so far from civilization.

No internet, people, or even animals, just you, the sand, and the sky.

Here you can discover all you need to know about sleeping in Oman’s desert, the Wahiba Sands.

Table of Contents

How to get to the desert in Oman?

This might sound mind-blowing, but there’s a lot of sand in the desert! So, you cannot go there in a regular car. Of course, you need a good 4×4 car like a Toyota Prado or a Mitsubishi Pajero, preferably with a strong engine.

I drove a Pajero 3.5 ltr. But some of the dunes in the desert were too steep, and the car didn’t have enough power to ride them, while the guide’s jeep could drive up the hills quickly. Or it could have been my desert driving skills!

Read what it's like to drive a car in Iraq!

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Close to the edge of the desert there is a town called Bidiya. From Muscat it’s about 3,5 hours driving. The roads are really well maintained, it felt safe, and people drive very calm. Much different than driving a car in Iraq!

In Bidiya it’s possible to meet a local guide to help and guide you through the desert to your desired spot.

I drove for about an hour and a half through the dunes until I found a nice place to build my little camp.

Contact me if you would like to receive the contact information of the guide, I was in contact with in Oman to reach the desert.

Close to the edge of the desert there is a town called Bidiya. It’s an authentic Oman town with camels walking around and buildings that make you feel like you’re in a scene of Aladdin. The town is the primary spot to enter the desert.

From Muscat it’s about 3,5 hours driving there. From that town it’s possible to meet a local guide to guide you through the desert to your desired spot. I drove for about an hour and a half through the dunes until I found a nice place to build my little camp.

Where to rent a car and rooftop tent?

You can rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a rooftop tent from a number of different companies in Muscat, Oman. I went with Nomad Tours Oman.

Their assistance was top-notch.  The owner, Chris, spent a lot of time with me when I got there explaining how to operate everything and what the best places to visit, camp and hike were.

All the gear was spotless and freshly laundered, including the sleeping bags. Charcoal, lighter fluid, and everything else necessary for a successful barbecue were included for a small extra fee.

I also need to mention Sights Tours. They work together with Nomad Tours. The four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Pajero was provided by them.

The service was great. On the first day I planned to leave the car in downtown Muscat during my stay there.

However, parking fees could only be paid via SMS message. Not sure why, but it didn’t work for me. To get into the heart of the city, I sent a text to Sights Tours, and they responded immediately and prepayed my parking fee. Absolutely incredible.

In conclusion, get in touch with Nomad Tours if you want a smooth camping trip in Oman. Thanks to their knowledge and helpfulness, my time in Oman was a great success.

How to use a 4WD In the desert?

Before you enter the desert, you need to deflate the tires of your 4×4 car. Luckily there are several small car shops where someone can do that for you for 1 OMR. They will also inflate them when you go back.

Right before you enter the desert, after you’ve deflated the tires, you will need to put the car in 4×4 mode. The way to do it is like this: stop the car, put it in neutral (important), put it in 4HLC, wait ten seconds, check if the little green car light on the dashboard is on, and put it in drive.

If you are going up some steep dunes, put it in manual in first gear. When you’ve reached the tip of the hill, you can switch it back from manual to ‘drive’.

Sleeping in the desert

If you are thinking of spending the night in the desert, alone or perhaps with kids, rent a rooftop tent.

During the night, many desert creatures come out! You don’t want them to knock on your door at night while you’re sleeping.

So, if you’re sleeping in the desert on the roof of your car, you’ll be safe. During the day, there won’t be any insects, scorpions or other animals. Maybe a few camels, but they are just chilling.

The following day, I saw many tracks of animals around my tiny camp. There were a lot of visitors, and I even went out at night to the toilet, yikes!

Temperature of sand and air at night

The temperature cools quite a bit at night, and the air and the sand get pretty cold. It surprised me when I had to get out of the rooftop tent to go to the toilet (read bucket) at night.

You might think it will be warm in the desert, but bringing a sweater is a smart idea.

I was sitting beside the campfire, but I still had to wear a sweater to keep myself warm in mid-February.

The next morning the sun was quite hot again of course, so back to bare feet or flip-flops!

Scorpions in Wahiba Sands

There are certain areas in the desert with some more vegetation, don’t go there because that’s where scorpions might be. The guide told me to stay away from the plants.

I asked him how many times he saw a scorpion; he said only like 2 per year. So not much, but more than enough for me to avoid the vegetation!

Night Sky in the desert

Have you ever been completely captivated by the beauty of the night sky? The stars, planets, and galaxies that light up the night create an indescribable sense of awe and wonder.

Imagine experiencing this magic in an environment with almost no surrounding light. That is exactly what you can expect when visiting Oman’s Wahiba Sands.

 It was so quiet that there was only a slight breeze and the sound of the campfire.

Why go by yourself when there are plenty of camps in the desert?

When I was researching things to do in Oman, I noticed the many camps in the desert where you can just rent a tent or cabin, on for example. It looked terrific and I initially wanted to book one of those. But when I started to investigate it some more, I noticed many of those camps were close together.

I was thinking, when you’re going to spend the night in the desert you would want that extraordinary remote feeling like you’re the last person on earth.

But when you’re surrounded by other tourists, you’ll never get that feeling. Besides that, when you book a tent in one of those camps, you will have to pay extra to go into the desert by car, pay for a photo, pay to see a camel etc.

That doesn’t help with getting that remote experience and immersive feeling of the desert.

That’s why we decided to rent a 4×4 in Oman to find our own path nowhere near any commercial camps.

Going by yourself with a 4×4 to the desert to spend the night there does take some extra effort to prepare, but it sure is worth it.

What's the best time to visit the desert and Oman?

The best time to visit Oman, and to sleep in the desert, is during “wintertime” between October and March. The weather is more relaxed, and you can enjoy the desert without the sun’s intense heat.

On the other hand, it might be more crowded at the Wadi’s in Oman, especially since February is a busy month. I was in Oman in February and there were quite some people at Wadi Shab, Bimmah sinkhole and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Especially the Mosque and the Wadi’s can become crowded with tour busses with many European folks.

All the other locations in Muscat and the rest of Oman were quiet. So, the best time to visit Oman depends on your preferences. If you want fewer tourists to take some better photos, it might be better to go in a different month than February.

If you don’t mind some tourists and prefer nice, not too hot temperatures like, 28 degrees, then February is an excellent time to visit Oman.

When visiting the desert, a 4WD with a local guide is the way to go, even during more busy months like February. I didn’t see any people when I was in Wahiba Sands.

Do you need to book in advance to visit Wahiba Sands?

If you are going with a 4×4 car, then no! It’s the desert so there is no need to book anything in advance.

The only thing that’s smart to book is a local guide, but that’s possible a day before.

I texted my guide Ahmed on WhatsApp to meet the next day at 3pm just outside of Bidiya. We met the next day and drove into the desert. He helped with deflating the tires as well, and even when my car got stuck in the sand.

Contact me if you would like to receive the contact information of the guide.

What to bring?

If you rent a rooftop tent, you’ll probably rent most of the camping equipment from the company. But even with all that stuff, some things are essential to bring:

Bring a bucket. A bucket to the desert? Yes! It works great as a toilet. Not as good as being able to read the newspaper for half an hour while sitting on it, but you get the point.

If you are planning on sleeping in the desert in Wahiba Sands, pack some good lights and power banks.

The lights we rented needed some power source; the batteries didn’t work so I had to connect them to a power bank for some light. Luckily, I had two!

Other perhaps more obvious essentials are:

Water: The desert is a dry and hot environment, so staying hydrated is important. Make sure to pack plenty of water and drink it regularly to avoid dehydration.

Sun Protection: The sun’s rays can be harsh in the desert, so protecting your skin and eyes is important. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to shield yourself from the sun.

First Aid Kit: It’s always a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit with you, including items such as bandages, antiseptic, and painkillers. If anything happens, there won’t be any people around to help. So just be extra careful with the campfire or a BBQ for example.

Cash and Identification: It’s always a good idea to carry cash and identification with you in case of emergencies or unexpected expenses. Right before I went into the desert, a little shop sold wood. Just a reminder, there is only sand in the desert! 😉

So it’s not possible to find some wood to make a fire. If you want a campfire, make sure you bring enough wood. 10 pieces of wood will be enough for a few hours of a cozy camp fire.

Things to remember when sleeping a night in the desert

  • Shoes, don’t walk around on bare feet or on sandals at night in the desert. Many creatures come out at night, most of them are harmless but better to be safe than sorry.
  • Close all windows of the car to prevent any sand from blowing in…oops……
  • If you are into photography; a cleaning set for lenses to clean out the sand of your precious gear.
  • Place your car in the direction of the wind so you can sit behind the car without sand getting blown in your face, or on the BBQ.

Final thoughts

Do it! It’s such a fantastic experience to sleep in the Wahiba Sands desert.. And if you are wondering about safety. Oman is a very safe place, often compared to Japan.

I’ve slept in several locations in the rooftop tent in Oman, and the night in the desert was the most chill and relaxing night.

Walking around on the dunes, that remote and immersive feeling of the desert, finding camel tracks in the sand and seeing a few walking in the distance, and at night a sky full of stars.

I hope to return there someday to see more of Oman and more parts of the beautiful desert.

The Omani folks are friendly, but even the camels will greet you with a big smile 😀

F.A.Q. Wahiba Sands

It sure is. You will get an immersive and remote feeling of being the last person on earth, in the desert. When you’re planning on sleeping in the desert there will be no sound at all, just you and the stars.

A benefit of the Wahabi Sands desert is that it’s pretty easy to reach form Muscat.

Drive all the way down from Muscat to Bidiya. It’s about 3,5 hours driving.

Bidiya is the main spot to enter the desert. You can stock up on wood for a campfire, find BBQ essentials and to deflate your tires to be able to drive in the desert.

During “winter time” from November to February is the best time to visit the desert in Oman.

It’s not really winter time because during the day in February it is already 28 degrees. During the night the temperature can drop to 12 degrees in the desert.

The Wahiba Sands desert is located in Oman. On the north-east side of Oman there are mountains called Ash Sharqiyah, and behind it you can find the ocean, the Gulf of Oman. On the south-west side of those mountains you will find the desert. The closest town is Bidiya.

Wahiba Sands is a sand dune desert that stretches south for about 170 kilometers and has sand dunes up to 100 meters in height.

A man standing on top of a sand dune with his arms outstretched.

About the author

Chris Oberman is the founder and author of Moving Jack and has been traveling the world for over 20 years to 40+ countries.

He lives in a different country every two years which allows him to gain unique in-depth insights and experiences in new places abroad.

Quoted on, NRC Newspaper, Vice,and Feedspot.

Read more about the author.

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