Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 Team Building Day in Ramlat Al-Wahiba

On December 3, 2011 the first shift of IM&T North Team took time-out from our usual work routine and organizes this year’s out-of-town team building event in Ramlat al-Wahiba (also called the Sharqiyah Sands) located in Wilayat Bediyah, Sharqiyah Governorate. Taking into account the number of participants, the team was considered of medium size. My group from Fahud met up with the rest of the team in the designated meeting place in Wilayat Ibra. There were a total of six vehicles in the convoy that drove towards the activity venue.

Ramlat al-Wahiba became an internationally renowned geological and ecological wonder in 1986 after a team of explorers from the Royal Geographical Society made an expedition into the region. For the explorers and scientist who studied and analyze the data, it was a relatively small desert because it keeps its commune within reasonable limits. The vastness from north to south is approximately 250 kilometer and only 80 kilometer from east to west. The 12,500 square kilometers of rolling, shifting sand dunes is home to some 16,000 species of living things, flora & fauna, and a mix of nomadic tribe that have adapted to living in such seemingly inhospitable place.

The terrain of Ramlat Al-Wahiba also known as Wahiba Sands

Several “desert camps” operate cozy hospitality lodging which cater to the cyclic requirement for daytime adventurers and a relaxing comfort for the night to fascinated tourists. They are situated in oasis, usually vast tracts of open and desolated expanse.

We drove through the scenic rolling sand dune which is approximately 40 kilometers from the last tarmac road in Wilayat Bediyah towards 1000 Nights Camp - our team building day venue. Driving in the spongy sand dunes require skill and experience, it will definitely propels ones spirit with mix feeling of worry, fright and thrill. The terrain was totally asymmetrical and maneuvers must be done with precision and caution. There is no GSM service along the route except only when you reach the camp.

1000 Nights Camp, one of the coziest desert camp in Wahiba Sands

A welcome streamer at the facade

Guiding guests with directional orientation

1000 Nights Camp offers modern comfort and amenities including electric service adding splendor to the tents and terrace that is elegantly illuminated and adorned with local textile, carpet, rugs, artifacts and potteries. It is set amidst clusters of Ghaf trees (Cineraria). A traditional Dhow is anchored alongside an elevated swimming pool that has its own sun deck and supplemented with assortment of recreational table games. Arab tents with well appointed modern furnishings and lavish ornaments provide the dwelling for guests. They are sparingly pitched apart in a method that privacy and security of the guest is ensured. The tents are outfitted with well-equipped shower and toilet. But don’t nag if you notice the shower & toilet’s roof is missing because there isn’t any roof at all; the sun, clouds, moon and stars are part of the amenities you paid for, this is why they are ever present during your entire "ceremony". The restaurant serves Arabic and Continental smorgasbord. Food and beverage choices are ample and healthy.

The sprawling oasis with abundant ghaf tree
The well appointed Arab Tents

The sprawling oasis with tents and paved walkways

Intricately decorated social hall and terrace

One of the lovely sitting hall of the camp

A traditional Dhow is undoubtedly the center of attraction

The elevated swimming pool right beside the Dhow

The Ghaf trees decorated with elaborate lighting artifacts

A refreshing water fountain   

Even the wash basins displays rustic appeal

The Camp Apartelle, for guest who prefer the more cosmopolitan touch

Healthy choice of meals served prompt and smorgasbord

Our team building activity began with sand boarding right after the complimentary qahwa (Arabic coffee). Dune bashing onboard 4WD is a perfect venture to explore the desert but we limit ourselves to simply exploring the camp facilities since we already made the 40 kilometer trek. A more traditional camel and horseback riding can be arranged accompanied by an experience guide. We organize a friendly match of volleyball fitting my team against our Supervisors. Unfortunately, we lost two sets against the more competitive and talented Supervisors. But later that day, I revealed to one of the Supervisors that I ordered my team mates to intentionally drop the match out of respect to our superior.

Dune bashing on board our 4WD vehicles

Highlight of the Event - descending from a steep barchan
(my SUV is indicated with the red arrow
Hurdling the descend safely


SmoothSailing - thumbs up for Khamis Al Harthy on the sandboard

A tourist guest on a guided camel ride across the dunes

After the hearty dinner and as everyone settles in for the evening, a group of Omani musicians began serenading the guest with lovely traditional songs accompanied by the oud. While guest recline on massive throw pillows set up around the terrace, everyone is sampling locally grown dates and qahwa. The music is both classical and lively, ushering in the night in traditional nomadic style. A far more spectacular sight is about to begin, far away from city lights and with little or no pollution or cloud disturbance, the desert night sky is said by some to be the best in the world.

An enthralling night of music from the melodic strings of the oud and reverberating
 beat of the ar-rahmani (Hamood Zakwani, our colleague in striped shirt)

We call-off the day’s activity at almost midnight. Everyone had his share of the very vigorous day and while some of my colleagues retire for the night, the rest of the still hyperactive started a series of hilarious publicity stunt. From out of their individual tents, came relentless barrage of loud animal sounds mimicking that of howls, bark, meow, neigh, cackle, chirp, moos, snort, grunt, gobble, chatter, scream, cuckoo and it went on until the wee hours of the morning.

At 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by a scratching sound inside my tent; it was scampering from one location to another. I cautiously rose from bed and reached for the light switch and after switching on the light, I was amazed to see a rodent like creature racing back and forth. It was not like the black rodents atypical to the house or dumps. It was golden colored, with bulging pair of eyes and its movement resembles more of a hop instead of a dash. I later remembered from my previous blog I wrote about a species of rodent known as the Arabian Jird. It thrives in Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE; it is already classified under the Conservation Status as a threathened species with a risk of extinction as endangered. Somehow, I manage to capture a shot from my camera and this is one such privileged encounter I will treasure for ages.

An Arabian Jird - a welcome guest at my tent

Going back to our aim and objective, the team building goal in this learning trip is to help participants develop increased awareness of team dynamics, practical skills for maximizing team performance, and developing a belief in the power of teamwork. Team building assists participants in planning specific improvements in the way the team operates. Participants will gain an integrated set of skills that can be applied anytime and anywhere, while enhancing their team performance, leadership abilities, and team unity. The result of applying these skills will be serious TEAMWORK - not teamwork in the ordinary sense, but something stronger, more committed, more productive, and more personal.

Hosts of the successful 2011 Team Building Day: 
Sheikh Sultan Al Busaidy, UIIO5 IM&T Head of Operations - North (right)
Sheikh Ali Subeh Dhawi, UIIO51F IM&T Supervisor - Fahud (left)

Participants of the 2011 Team Building Day

Participants of the 2011 Team Building Day

The Author -

While staring out at Ramlat al-Wahiba, it can be startling that something as barren as a desert could sustain so many lives. The team dynamics we share during the short span of our experience are testament to the time spent living in such inhospitable place. Deserts are a challenging frontier for man, learning to work together is an inspiring purpose to be enhance and yet still there is much more to be discovered.

We will be looking forward for next year's Team Building event and Insha' Allah it will be similar to this recently concluded successful event.

Congratulations to all the participants.

Photo Credits: Baburaj K., Nasser Masroui, Mahmood Riyamy & Sultan Al Busaidy, UIIO5
Venue: 1000 Nights Camp - Art in the Desert
Date: December 3 - 4, 2011

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