Omran and Zahara tours support milestone empty quarter expedition
Omran, the government’s tourism development and investment arm, and Zahara Tours, Oman’s leading destination company, today announced its support of the 2009 Empty Quarter Journey, a 28 day expedition into the Empty Quarter, the vast desert comprising much of Oman’s inland area.
The expedition marks 60 years since the famous explorer Wilfred Thesiger made his second crossing of the Empty Quarter, setting off from Salalah in Oman and immortalised in his book Arabian Sands.
The modern expedition, comprising Oman resident and wilderness enthusiast Mark Evans, and John Smith, one of New Zealand’s leading landscape photographers, will make their way into the desert on the first day of 2009. They will travel through the Empty Quarter for 28 days, exploring the desert and people who have made it their home in the hope of educating the rest of the world about this area of natural awe and beauty.
Omran and Zahara Tours are co-sponsoring the Empty Quarter Journey, in association with Zahara Tours, in recognition of the expedition’s unique undertaking to turn the global spotlight on one of Oman’s most important natural assets in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) is one of the most breathtaking natural areas in the world: a vast desert which comprises a large portion of Oman’s interior, as well as parts of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Eng. Wael Al Lawati, Chief Executive Officer - Omran, said:
“Part of Omran’s role as the country’s primary tourism developer is to educate people throughout the region and around the world on what Oman has to offer. The Empty Quarter has captured the minds and imaginations of travellers for centuries, and remains a crucial part of our heritage.
Furthermore, the Empty Quarter Journey will emphasise the importance of sustainable tourism, and recognising the importance of the natural environment. This protects the striking environments of our country, from its deserts and mountains to its coasts and wadis, while ensuring that they are available to visitors from around the world to enjoy.”
Mr. Gautam Boota, General Manager, Zahara Tours, said:
“Zahara Tours keen involvement in the Empty Quarter Expedition comes as its ongoing commitment to promote responsible tourism in Oman. The pristine landscapes that the Sultanate offers have enchanted international travellers for centuries and continue to do so even today. Our support to the expedition which aims at endeavour to further encourage sustainable tourism in Oman.”
Mark Evans, part of the two-man expedition team, said:
“Omran is focused on considered, responsible tourism development which is environmentally sympathetic and sustainable. Our partnership therefore sits well as we aim via our journey to make people think and consider the value of what surrounds them, and perhaps treat it in a more responsible way.
“On our journey we will follow the ‘take only photographs leave no footprints’ principle. Out of respect for the environment, you will not know we have been there when we move on.”
Both Omran and Zahara have a commitment to responsible development, and to engaging the Omani community in developing the country’s tourism industry. Omran’s and Zahara Tours’ support of the expedition is part of an ongoing programme of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Omran for example, this year had a partnership with the Environment Society of Oman to produce the Go Green guide, a brochure giving Oman residents tips for minimising their impact on the environment as well as the launch of Oman’s first Paper Recycling Campaign, placing 20 recycling bins in schools in Muscat.
Using satellite communications the expedition team will be transmitting photographs and journal entries on a daily basis to their website at http://www.omandesertexpeditions.com , and will be documenting their surroundings and the people they meet on their journey.