Crossing the Empty Quarter of Yemen with Bedouin Guides
Once in a lifetime you get to go on a journey that changes your life. One such journey of mine was driving from London to Nairobi through the Middle East with a photo journalist friend. It took two months and we crossed through Europe, Turkey, the Western Desert of Syria, Jordan, Egypt’s Sinai Desert, Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia and eventually Kenya. The one memory that stands out from the rest was having the rare privilege to visit Yemen and cross the deeply inhospitable Empty Quarter with the local Bedouin. Wilfred Thesiger is one of my absolute heroes and to feel like I was following in his footsteps - even for a few days and in the comfort of a vehicle and not a camel - was thrilling. It is a harsh, romantic, unforgiving, prehistoric landscape and the people reflect the same attributes. There are not many places left in the world that are untouched by technology, progress and globalisation. This is one of them. We made makeshift gunnery ranges in the middle of the desert so the Bedouin could showcase their shooting and hunting skills. As an ex-Army officer I was happy to oblige. Later we shared goat and flatbread from communal platters laid out in the sand next to a roaring fire. To fall asleep under a canopy of stars that wraps around you like a natural (and spiritual) blanket listening to the Bedouin delicately sipping the last of their hot sweet tea and bantering in Arabic about their strange and eccentric travel companions. Now that is experiential travel!