Explorer Mark Evans recounts his journey across the Empty Quarter

Mark Evans traveled across Rub Al-Khali, the largest continuous sand desert on earth. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 07 December 2018

Explorer Mark Evans recounts his journey across the Empty Quarter

  • Evans took 49 days to make the trek, traveling on foot and accompanied by four camels
  • Evans was following in the footsteps of fellow British explorer Bertram Thomas

RIYADH: Think the age of exploration has come and gone? Think again. At an event organized this week by the Saudi Arabian Scandinavian Society (SASA), Muscat-based British explorer Mark Evans enthralled the audience who had gathered to hear him recount his journey across Rub Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), the largest continuous sand desert on earth.

Evans was following in the footsteps of fellow British explorer Bertram Thomas, who successfully made the grueling journey. Thomas, guided by Omani Sheikh Saleh bin Kalut, took 60 days to cross the Empty Quarter in 1931. Evans’ expedition set off on the same day, Dec. 10, 85 years later.

Evans, alongside Omani explorers Mohamed Al-Zadjali and Amur Al-Wahaibi, took 49 days to make the trek, traveling on foot and accompanied by four camels. They began their journey in Salalah, Yemen, and ended it in Doha, Qatar, following the same trail as Thomas.

Marie Louise Sodemann, chairperson of SASA — a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization dedicated to building relations between individuals and groups in Saudi Arabia and Scandinavia — opened the event with a few choice words.

“In a way, coming to Saudi Arabia, for me, can be compared to (crossing a desert),” she said. “The people I met all looked similar, in a way. They wore the same clothes, and spoke a language I didn’t understand. But I slowly realized that all I was seeing was my own negative shadow. And that there are as many different destinies as there are people. And that a beautiful soul can be found anywhere.”

Over the course of their journey, Evans explained, his team faced challenges including heavy sandstorms, extreme climate changes (temperatures in the high forties during the day and below zero at night) and temperamental camels. Nevertheless, they emerged triumphant, reportedly the first people to do so since Thomas and his team.

At the end of the presentation, “desert-survival food,” which included traditional jareesh and camel meat, and more humble options such as tinned baked beans, a staple in the desert explorer’s diet even when Thomas set off on his expedition, was available for the audience to sample.

Evans — who is also the founder and executive director of Outward Bound Oman — grew up “captivated” by the idea of exploration and discovery. He spent his childhood, he said, “exploring” the fields around his house with his dog, making his own entertainment. 

He has traveled extensively across the world and has been involved in outdoor education for over 39 years. Queen Elizabeth II honored him in 2012 with an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his work.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Updated 28 February 2020

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

  • OIC secretary-general notes that the organization continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

 Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.