Opened in 2015, the Saudi Arabia-Oman highway, known as Highway Empty Quarter, directly connects both countries through the Rub’ al Khali desert, also known as The Empty Quarter, the largest and most barren sand desert in the world. The road has been called an engineering marvel as it was built through the moving sands of the vast Empty Quarter.
The road, which snakes through the world’s largest desert, is asphalted. It’s a dual-carriageway that dramatically cuts down the journey times and distances between the two countries. On the Oman side is about 160km long, starting from Tanam in Ibri and ending at the Saudi border. From Saudi Arabia, it stretches 247km from the Omani border to the Shaybah Oil Field and 319km from Shaybah to the Batha-Haradh road, which leads to Riyadh.The new road cuts the distance between Saudi Arabia and Oman by about 800 km. The highway is one of the longest road in the Middle East, through one of the harshest, extreme climate in the world, overcoming extreme logistical challenges and achieving demanding service requirements to reach Saudi Arabia’s ambitious infrastructure development program.
The construction was extremely hazardous. Intense heat, farness from nearest inhabited city, shifting sand dunes and harsh topography and climate, all spelt the difficulties in the construction project. The desert is characterized with steep terrain and sand dunes elevated as high as 250 meters (820ft), and this did not hinder the completion of the road construction project. Among other difficulties, the workers and machines had to cope with extreme desert temperatures, reaching 50oC degrees in the day and dropping to below 1oC at night.