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Dubai resident Max Calderan completes epic Empty Quarter desert trek

Words by Rob Chilton

Italian desert adventurer covered the 1,100km route in just 16 days

As a name, the Rub' Al Khali desert is evocative enough, but its nickname – The Empty Quarter – lends this place even more mystery and drama.

Stretching across Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Yemen, the Rub' Al Khali has shifting dunes that stand 60 storeys high and can be afflicted by terrifying sand storms. Navigation is made difficult due to the lack of detailed satellite maps of the area. Poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions and heat mean the 650,000 square kilometre Rub' Al Khali is no picnic.

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Only three people have tried to cross the treacherous desert on the shorter north-south route but Dubai resident Max Calderan has now made history as the first man to complete the east-west journey solo.

Calderan, who holds 11 world records in desert exploration, took 16 days to conquer the 1,100km journey by foot, finishing in the UAE on February 3.

Calderan was inspired by tales of British explorer Wilfred Thesiger

Inspired to attempt the run by the life story of British explorer, Wilfred Thesiger that he read as a child, Calderan encountered 300-metre high sand dunes on his adventure, the largest he’s ever faced.

“Until I set foot on that sand and get started, I am an ordinary man but as soon as I start and my feet hit the sand, I change immediately,” explained the 52-year-old Italian. The toughest part was the last 200km. “It was the first time in my life I prayed to get out of the desert safe,” he admitted.

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