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Hajar Ali is the definition of a world traveler. A founder of luxury travel company Urbane Nomads, she has seen more places than most people can name, and isn't big on taking the easy route for herself. In March, she became the first woman to cross the Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world, stretching between Saudi Arabia, Oman, and United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Not content with that desert adventure, Hajar is already planning an even more ambitious trip, to go by foot to Antarctica's Pole of Inaccessibility, the most remote point on the frozen continent. Discovery sat down with Hajar to find out what inspires her to go places so few have been before, and how exactly she pulls it off.
Discovery: What led you into your current career?
Hajar Ali: It's quite complicated. My last degree was in strategic studies, in international relations. Had I not gone into travel, I would probably be in that line of work. I imagine if I wasn't in this, I would have been a war correspondent, something like that. Something that incorporates a lot of travel. It's related somehow.
D: What sets Urbane Nomads apart?
HA: We specialize in luxury travel to remote places. We try to incorporate adventure into an otherwise touristic trip. Where we feel we excel is providing luxury accommodations in unusual places. Let's say you want to go hunting in Western Mongolia, the hotels there are miserable. We set up the gers [Mongolian dwellings similar to yurts], with portable showers. We get the best guides, the best cooks.
D: What drove you to cross the Rub Al Khali?
HA: I was researching the Empty Quarter as a destination. The more you research, the more you get involved. I noticed that there was no woman who had crossed it; I wanted to be the first.