Far from being an arid dustbowl, the Arabian nation of Oman has widely varying landscapes. And at Salalah, in the south, the yearly monsoon ensures that a very valuable tree flourishes.
The searing Omani desert doesn't sound so alluring but under a hot sun I stood fascinated as my Bedouin guide, Musallam Hassan, chipped away at the wiry trunk of Boswelia sacra, the frankincense tree.
Thousands of years ago, this part of modern-day Oman grew rich on the export of frankincense, which is thought to have been sold as far afield as China.
A few days later, I'm standing again in the burning desert sun near Thumrait. Before me a yawning chasm in the sand is all that's left of the ancient city of Ubar.
Mentioned in the Koran and the Bible, it was mysteriously lost until images taken from space showed camel tracks converging at this spot on the desert.
Read more about the secrets of the desert... Oman, where wealth drips from the trees
You may also like
Arrivals & Departures: Boost your immunity
STEPHEN SCOURFIELD looks at how to keep viral infections at bay
Podcast: The Pod Well Travelled Episode 2
In West Travel Club's latest podcast, Will Yeoman talks to Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield and cruise specialist Michael Ferrante about what the current US/Iran tensions might mean for tourism in the region, as well as the year that was in ocean and river cruising
Podcast: The Pod Well Travelled Episode 1
In their first podcast for 2020, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield and his team look ahead to a New Year packed with stories, tours, events, workshops and more