'We were terrified': Relief as Emirati lost for three days in Saudi desert is found

Ahmed Al Menhali's decision to stay by his car most probably saved his life

Sand dunes in the empty quarter area, Rub al Khali desert, Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***  na19ju-reefer-dunes.jpg
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An Emirati man who went missing in the vast Saudi Arabian desert was found alive on Tuesday after three days of intensive search operations.

Ahmed Al Menhali, 39, was stranded in the desert region bordering the UAE and Saudi Arabia after being last seen at a fuel station in the Taweelah area at about 10pm on Saturday.

He had been driving to his farm in the Saudi part of the Empty Quarter – or Rub Al Khali – one of the largest sand deserts in the world, when his car ran out of fuel.

Mr Al Menhali's return came after search and rescue teams tirelessly combed through the unforgiving terrain, leaving family and friends concerned for his welfare.

His brother, Hasan, believes the decision to stay by his car may well have saved his life.

Mr Al Menhali was driving a white Nissan Patrol across the desert when he ran out of fuel and lost communication.

“He is in a good health and we found him after three days,” Hasan Al Menhali told The National.

“A group of people who were searching for my brother called me on Tuesday night and I managed to speak with him via a Thuraya satellite phone that was with the rescue team.

“It was a moment of joy for us after gruelling days of search in the vast desert.”

Mr Al Menhali's family were staying at the farm, 400km from the main road inside the desert, and he was on his way to join them before running out of fuel after covering 350km.

Saudi search and rescue organisation FAO teamed up with hundreds of volunteers after receiving a report from the Yabreen Police Station in the kingdom.

The volunteers were given fuel, food and tools to carry out the search.

“We congratulate his family on his safe return after he was found. He is well and in good health,” FAO said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr Al Menhali said he survived on water and some food in his car.

“We were terrified that he might leave his car and walk in the desert but he decided to stay near his car, waiting for rescue. That was a good decision,” his brother, Hasan, said.

“He couldn’t use his phone as there is no mobile phone coverage in the Empty Quarter.

“Thanks to everyone my brother found alive and safe.”

Mr Al Menhali will return to his home in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, his brother added.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 6:34 AM