National Geographic : 1966 Jan
sand as big as Texas (page 34)-its permanent population: zero. "A trip into the Empty Quarter is no Sun day excursion," Jim warned me. "There's danger involved, and some fancy navigating. More than 400 miles with hardly a landmark. You'll have to carry every drop of water you'll need. God help you if your Land-Rover breaks down." I worried, too, about the late ness of the season. Any day a shamaal-a summer northerly-could plague us with stinging sandstorms. My wife Lynn joined me in Dhahran just in time for the big adventure. For her it would mean a break from housekeeping routines. The emir of the province assigned us a hefty Dodge Power Wagon, with a driver and cook, as a back-up vehicle. Aramco's explora tion department briefed me and outfitted the Land-Rover with 900-x-15 sand tires. Lynn supervised the loading of canned food, char coal, green coffee for baksheesh, or tips, 200 28 gallons of water, 400 of gasoline, and a small live lamb. At Al Huffif oasis we picked up young Jabr, our guide. He was of the Murrah tribe, most famous trackers in Arabia. Jabr was lean but tough as leather. He brought with him all his worldly goods: a turban, short white gown, cartridge belt, and rifle. He kept his hair in long ringlets and his black beard trimmed short, and he looked the world straight in the eye. We crossed the Dammam-Riyadh railway at Haraci and followed a faint trail for four hours to our first stop, Nadqan Well. A herd of noisy camels pressed around it; nearby a group of Murrah Bedouin had pitched their black tents (pages 32-3). One belonged to Jabr's father. We were among friends. I left Lynn to set up camp and walked with Jabr to meet the camp's senior member, gray bearded Emir Rashid ibn Nudaylah. "As-salaam 'alaikum! Peace be upon you!" shouted Jabr. They rubbed noses in greeting.