Ben & James Versus the Arabian Desert


James and Ben Fogle are to trek deep into the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert in the footsteps of explorer Wilfred Thesiger for a brand new series, coming soon to BBC Two.

The daredevil duo, whose previous expeditions include rowing across the Atlantic and racing to the South Pole, will team up for another trip of a lifetime.

Four years after their last adventure across Antarctica in the BBC series On Thin Ice, James and Ben are re-uniting for a dramatic desert challenge – an unguided expedition across a portion of the iconic Empty Quarter in Oman, following in the footsteps of legendary British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who travelled in there in the 1940s.

Importantly for Ben and James, this trip is an opportunity to rekindle a lost friendship. After their sometimes stormy Antarctica adventure, they’d always planned to do another expedition.

But in July 2010, James' injury affected his motivation, organisation and empathy. His relationships suffered badly, including his friendship with Ben. For James, this expedition is about regaining confidence after the accident. For Ben, it’s a chance to find his friend again.

In the first episode, Ben and James arrive in Salalah in Oman. Unlike Thesiger, they plan to complete their 3-week expedition without Bedouin guides. They have less than a week to learn how to ride and manage the camels and navigate between water wells from their mentor, Mussallem Hassan Masoud al Mahri. It’s a daunting task: to walk and ride across 600km of harsh desert terrain and huge sand dunes in 18 days, surviving on Thesiger-style rations of dates and flat bread, carried by their four camels. Their target is Umm as Samim, the fabled quick sands known as ‘Mother of Poison’, made famous by Thesiger who was the first Westerner ever to reach them.

After the pressure of training, the start of the expedition is action packed. They struggle to navigate to the first water well and nearly lose their camels down a steep dune, they argue about how best to cover the ground, and Ben is bitten badly by his camel.

After just three days, both are at their lowest and are hardly speaking. Will they ever make it to the Quick Sands? And will they be able to rekindle their friendship?

Watch the first episode of Ben & James Versus the Arabian Desert, Thursday 26th December at 9.15pm on BBC Two.

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  • I am really looking forward to this, James. Hope it goes really well.
    Alastair Humphreys

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