The Book of One Thousand and
One Arabian Nights, is a piece of medieval Middle-Eastern literature in
the style of a frame tale and the amazing story of Al Raha Tourism Camp
and its creator Ali Al Hajry embodies the oriental magic of "One
Thousand and One Arabian Nights":
The legend of the Persian king
Shahryar (who, incensed by the infidelity of his wife vowed to take a
new wife every night and kill her the next day), of the beautiful and
clever Shahrazad (who consented to become the queen and spent every night
telling him legendary tales and stopping at a climactic point at dawn,
so that the king will postpone the execution out of a desire to hear the
rest of the tale. In the end, she has given birth to three sons, and the
king has been convinced of her faithfulness and revoked his decree) lives
on in these deserted sand dunes of the Wahiba.
The myths and mysteries woven by Shahrazad's never ending tales, the cliff-hanger
excitement of the stories of the 'One Thousand and One Arabian Nights',
the thrill of adventure all seem to permeate the Al Raha Tourism Camp
and bring to life the exotic experience of the Arabian way of life.
The richly layered narrative
texture of these stories is mirrored in the changing colours of the dunes
and the evolving moods of the desert and the spirit of magic and the triumph
of good over evil is represented in Ali's personal story of struggle interwoven
with the genesis and development of the Al Raha Tourism Camp.
A long, long time ago, Ali
Al Hajry was a Mathematics teacher in a government school. But he burned
with inner dreams, an entrepreneurial streak would not let him be at peace.
His resolve was to do something different, to create.
One day, he saw a camper in the desert and wondered why the Bedouins lived
in this desolation. A true pioneer, he tried it himself
and got caught
up in the inexorable pull of the desert.
Long before, eco-tourism became a byword; Ali started the Al Raha Tourism
Camp - the first desert experience destination to open in Oman. The Camp
consisting of a couple of huts, a toilet block and a fence was all built
for 500 Rials Omani in partnership between Ali and his brother in 1997.
The first group to stay there was family and friends in 1998.
Ali had no idea or experience of tourism
only an indomitable will to share
this wonderful place with others. The days rolled by in a tedious routine
of teaching Mathematics till 12 in the noon, then heading for Muscat to
distribute printed pictures to Travel Agencies till 4pm and drive back
by 10 pm. Admittedly, the Travel agencies were a little skeptical. His
family also discouraged him, saying "Ali, you are plain crazy."
But Ali had one stronghold - his belief in the place and in himself. And
then, something magical happened. Ali got his first booking
for 175 people!
He had absolutely no briefing what to do and arrange for this group. It
was a learning experience.
Ali and his camp have never looked back since. From those trials and tribulations,
the Camp has grown from 8 barastis and 4 tents to 77 rooms and 15 luxury
tent suites. But Ali remembers his humble origins and his ties to the
land are unbreakable. Ali and the Camp support the local Bedouin tribes,
arrange for tourists to visit their home and partake of their charmed
and simple life. To support local craft and heritage, the Camp has Bedouin
women come on weekends to sell all kinds of traditional bedu items like
masks, turbans, carpets, mobile bags, handbags, keyrings, etc.
As Ali puts it, the desert is different from any other place on earth.
It changes from day to day and hour to hour. Its mysterious and magical
and here, everything is possible.
Little wonder then, that people visit again and again to live this experience
and to escape that jaded feeling of 'Been there Done that'.