British explorer all set for historic desert trek

British explorer Mark Evans is organising a historic trek across Oman which will re-trace the steps taken by fellow Brit Bertram Thomas in 1930 – the first Westerner to cross the Rub’ Al Khali desert.

Evans, the general manager of Outward Bound Oman, plans to trek across the vast “empty quarter” desert – the biggest sand desert in the world – alongside Omani companions Mohammed Al-Zadjali and Amour bin Ali bin Majeed Al Wahaibi.

The expedition, part of HM Sultan Qaboos’ 45th anniversary celebrations, is scheduled to start in Salalah on December 10 and end in the Qatari capital Doha towards the end of January 2016.

The 1,300km route will take Evans, awarded an MBE in 2011 for his work using outdoor challenges to connect cultures, and his companions through Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The trek will take place under the patronage of HH Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said in Oman, HRH The Prince of Wales in the UK and HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in Qatar.

In 1930, Omani guide Sheikh Salih bin Kalut led British explorer Bertram Thomas on a 60-day journey across the magnificent but dangerous and desolate landscape of the Rub Al Khali.

The duo negotiated their way through warring tribes, sand storms and an unforgiving landscape, combatting scorching heat and freezing nights, surviving on a diet of brackish water, dates, dried meat and packet soup. News of this first ever crossing was a global sensation.

The 2015 expedition – only the second time in recorded history that the journey has been attempted - will again be conducted solely on foot and by camel train.

Mark Evans said: “We are proud to be undertaking this historic and challenging expedition and look forward to starting the journey in a little over a month’s time. One of our key objectives is to encourage and inspire young people, and instil the idea that success in life can only be achieved by sustained hard work, willingness and team spirit.”

Mark Evans MBE (left) speaking at the launch of the expeditionEvans has lived in the Arabian Gulf for 21 years. He initially taught at St Christopher’s School in Bahrain, the British School in Riyadh and then the British School in Muscat.

He previously worked for Outward Bound in Scotland and East Africa and has also led challenging overseas expeditions for the educational charity British Exploring, based at London’s Royal Geographical Society.

Evans has lived in Oman for 12 years and, courtesy of a 55-day solo kayak journey from Musandam to Yemen, and a previous 28-day trek through the Empty Quarter, knows the country intimately.

He has published three books and has lectured several times at the Royal Geographical Society, The Explorers Club in New York, the National Geographic stores in London and Singapore, and twice at the Daily Telegraph Adventure Travel show.

Fellow 2015 expedition team member, Mohammed Al Zadjali, said: “The original Empty Quarter crossing by Bertram Thomas and Sheikh Saleh bin Kalut was met with global acclaim, however many people today have forgotten this great accomplishment. I am excited to be taking part in this challenge and I am honoured to carry the Omani flag during this fantastic expedition and spread the message to the Omani Youth that ambition, hard work and planning is the key to achieving goals.”

To follow the expedition's progress every step of the way, go online at: www.crossingtheemptyquarter.com

To find out more about Outward Bound Oman, visit: http://www.outwardboundoman.com/