“The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary lies between the central desert and the coastal mountains of Oman, an area in which seasonal fog and dew played an important role in the growth of special plants which were the food of the oryx until 1972, when they nearly became extinct, and again in 1982 when they were re-introduced after the breed was stabilized.” (from the “Sultanate of Oman” booklet printed by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, 2005)
Members at the front of our caravan trying to get access to the sanctuary less than 30 minutes before it was closing…The hotel assured us that our names were submitted and we’d get in easily but it was a long wait at the gate and they didn’t have a list of our names… Special permission is required to visit the sanctuary and can be obtained from: The Office of the Conservation of Environment Advisor, Diwan of Royal Court. Tel: +968-2469-3536, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.oryxoman.com (Funny. I just went to that website given by the Ministry but it is actually a Japanese lady’s cosmetics site. ?!?! Bizarre!)
This was the scene just before we were finally allowed to enter the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary. (There was a Royal Decree (No. 79/2011) to change the name to “Natural Living Sanctuary in the Al Wusta Region“ but everyone seems to still call it by the original.) While a sunset may be beautiful to behold, it’s not reassuring when you are hoping to see oryx before nightfall! The hotel management told us we could see it from 4 to 6pm but they failed to mention that it was a 1.5 hour drive to the sanctuary from the hotel! Brilliant! Other guests were equally upset by that lack of information leaving us mere minutes to enjoy watching the Oryx!
It was a real treat to watch these gorgeous animals even if only for minutes. I had often thought of visiting this site over the past 4 years but this was our first real chance. I wrote about the plight of the poor Oryx in this post titled “Oryx You Going to Protect Us or Not?” 4 years ago. More about the UN’s decision to remove this site from their list of World Heritage Sites here. Little or nothing is said about this historic removal from the UN list on government sites such as this one. It’s not exactly something to be proud of as the World Heritage Committee felt that the decision to reduce the area by 90% was “destroying the outstanding universal value of the site which was inscribed in 1994“.
“The Arabian Oryx has been considered an animal of beauty by the people of the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. With its oversized horns and elegant body, the antelope holds huge cultural significance in the Gulf. Being the largest antelope in the area it has a remarkable tenacity to survive in one of the most inhospitable natural environments in the world. The Arabian Oryx’s body is perfectly suited for life in the desert. Its small hooves mould well into soft sand while its body can tolerate a rise in temperature up to 40°C. The animal can also go without a water source for periods of up to four months, relying instead on the dew collected from plants and shrubs that forms its staple diet.”
“The Arabian Oryx has held symbolic value for the people of the Middle East for
centuries. It is thought that the mythical unicorn creature was developed from
the animal’s characteristics. In profile, the Oryx appears to have one horn and
the Hebrew word “re’em” may have been translated as ‘unicorn’.”
There is a large fence around the whole protected area. There is also a small inner fence at the visitors area (seen here) and quite a few oryx (plural of oryx can be “oryx” or “oryxes” but I prefer the use of “oryx”. 😉 ) are located inside the smaller fence. Many others (we were told) roam freely outside the fence, such as the lone oryx you see here (pictured behind the blue plastic trashbag that some thoughtless tourist must have left behind…).
As night approached, the pictures became blurrier and blurrier…to see some fantastic pictures at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, check out this issue (#172) of Y-Magazine. I’m a big fan of Jerzy Wierzbicki’s photography and the black and white pics of oryx are among the best I’ve seen.
Here are 2 short videos I took while at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary: (The 2nd one is currently being processed. Check back soon to view!!)