• A guide to making the most of the Liwa Oasis

    Today we take a closer look at the wonder that is Liwa Oasis...

    Liwa Oasis is about 100 km south of the Persian Gulf coast and 150 km SSW of the city of Abu Dhabi, on the northern edge of Rub' al Khali desert. The geographic and economic center of the oasis is Muzayri, where the highway from Abu Dhabi enters the oasis and then divides to the east to the easternmost village, Mahdar Bin Usayyan and west to the westernmost village, Aradah. The population is estimated at 50,000 to 150,000. A modern, multilane highway connects the oasis area to the capital Abu Dhabi . Traditionally men from Liwa (Bani Yas tribe) were pearl divers on the coast during the summer months. Pearl diving offered an additional source of income.

    Liwa oasis

    The oasis is the place of birth of the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In 1793, the ruling family Al Nahyan moved their residence from Liwa to the city of Abu Dhabi.

    The villages of Liwa Oasis are the southernmost settlements of Abu Dhabi and of the United Arab Emirates. The southern border of Abu Dhabi with Saudi Arabia, which runs at a distance between 16 and 35 km to the Oasis, is a straight line in the Rub al Khali desert, which is largely uninhabited.

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    Mahdar Bin Usayyan is the southermost village of the Emirates, and also the easternmost of the oasis. 10 km south of the border, and 40 km south of the eastern part of the oasis is the Saudi oil facility Shaybah. However, there is no road linking Liwa Oasis and Shaybah, and no border crossing. An important traditional branch of the economy is date farming. There is a widespread use of drip irrigation and greenhouses.

    The importance of tourism is on the rise.  Liwa Hotel in Muzayri boasts four stars. The hotel has the most spectacular unique location by being on a hill overlooking the beautiful Liwa Oasis on one side and the barren Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) Desert on the other side. Towering above the town of Liwa Mezairah and most of its surroundings, visitors to the hotel are readily awarded with two contrasting views of green and golden brown.

    The Liwa Rest House is in the same village and run by the government of Abu Dhabi.

    22km south of Muzayri is the 5 star, resort Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. Every room, villa and suite is considered to be some of the finest abodes among luxury Abu Dhabi resorts and features desert views, blending rich interiors with the landscape, each villa has its own private plunge pool.

    Rub al Kali – appropriately known as the Empty Quarter – is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The size of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined, Rub al Kali is populated by huge irq (vein) dunes that are 150 kilometres long, horned barchan dunes that crest steeply to 700 metres, and wall-like zibar dunes that block movement down the shugs (corridors).

    Crossing this area is considered as dangerous – and logistically more difficult – than Antarctica. Temperatures reach more than 61ºC and the central core is inaccessible to fixed-wing aircraft or even helicopters.

    The Liwa Hotel is an oasis of hospitality here, guests can enjoy top-class comfort and luxury, matched by traditional Arabian standards of service and hospitality. Spacious and luxurious rooms offer impressive panoramic views, which can be explored through exhilarating desert safaris and evening outings for sumptuous Arabian feasts under the stars.

    Explore the large areas of lag gravel plains with ‘seif’ (sword) dunes marching across them. In the eastern margins of the Rub Al Kali there are ‘sabkhas’ – dry-crusted, lithium-rich brine-mud lakes. Between the huge dunes there are thousands of ancient dried lakes, clear evidence of two previous periods of regular rains, and keen-eyed explorers might find elegant flint arrow-heads, maybe chance of the skulls of huge beasts from that era, akin to water-buffalo and hippos.

    Al-Hadida is a strange place of black glass and white rocks where a meteorite struck with an explosion equivalent to the Hiroshima atom bomb. Known as the ‘Wabar’ Impact Site, scientists estimate that the strike was very recent on a geological time scale, putting the date at around 1863. At least three crater rims are still visible, and the exposed wind-sorted field of debris from the impact extends to about 500 by 1,000 metres, caused by an explosion-cloud that probably reached the stratosphere.
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