The Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali, is the largest continuous sand dune desert in the world. Covering over a quarter of a million square miles, the largest part is in Saudi Arabia with smaller sections spilling over into the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The first westerner to cross it from north-south was British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, known locally in the Gulf as Mubarak bin London (the blessed one from London). We highly recommend you read his book, Arabian Sands, to help you understand this very hostile environment.
Life in the Rub Al Khali has changed significantly since his journeys back in the 1940s, with most Bedu moving to cities and towns where their families can benefit from formal education and good medical facilities.
Nowadays, although it is home to some Bedu farms, often nomadic in KSA, you will find some nature reserves, such as Umm Al Zamool in the UAE, as well as many oilfields. However, there is still room to roam here and explore and with modern technology such as the motor car and satellite phone, this can be done much more safely than in years gone by!
It is said long ago, that the people of the Arabian Peninsula thought that there was no other land apart from theirs. They thought that half of the world was the sea which surrounded their land mass; a quarter of it comprised the inhabited areas which bordered the coast, and the sandy, dry, desolate in the middle, was The Empty Quarter. We have no way of knowing if this is true but isn’t it a wonderful story!