Google Street View combs the Arabian desert via camel

The search giant's Street View images take you on a virtual tour of the Liwa Desert in the United Arab Emirates.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Google mounted its Trekker equipment on top of a camel to map the Liwa Desert. Google

Google typically captures its Street View images via a car. But in some terrains, you need to rely on a slightly different mode of transportation.

In one of its latest treks, the Street View crew traveled across the sandy dunes of the Liwa Desert, a large area located in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The entire area itself stretches for around 62 miles from east to west.

Calling the Liwa Desert "one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world," a Google Maps blog posted late Tuesday described the area and the Street View crew's journey to capture it for us to see from the comfort of our homes. Google Maps has increasingly brought virtual travelers to difficult to reach destinations -- such as the North Pole and the Galapagos Islands -- via Street View, all as part of its larger effort to piece together a comprehensive map of the world.

As you make your way through the Liwa Desert, you'll discover sand dunes anywhere from 82 to 131 feet in height, according to Google. Such hills served as homes to people back in the late Stone Age, which means the Liwa Desert is one of the oldest sites in the UAE.

The word "desert" may conjures up a barren stretch of sand, but in the desert sits the Liwa Oasis, which was initially set up as a trade center by early settlers. The area is known for its date farms, which provide an ample supply of dates. The oasis has since become a tourist attraction for travelers as well as for locals.

Exactly how did Google wend its way across to desert to capture the landscape? By camel.

The team took its Trekker equipment, which takes panoramic photographs of an area, and placed it atop an obviously cooperative camel.

"To bring this stunning desert to Street View, we fashioned the Trekker to rest on a camel, which gathered imagery as it walked," Google's blog said. "Using camels for the collection allowed us to collect authentic imagery and minimize our disruption of this fragile environment."

Google's Street View show images of various parts of the Liwa Desert, some of the large sandy dunes, a wide shot of part of the oasis, and a glimpse of some of the local residents.