Vast stretches of yellow sand, sandy wastes are the most identifiable deserts of Athas. Some wastes are plains where the air is still and no winds disturb the trackless land. In other wastes, the landscape takes on a rumpled appearance as winds pile up sand to form great dunes. The topography of such wastes changes endlessly; old dunes slowly erode under the wind, and new ones form when deadly sandstorms whip up with little warning. Travelers caught in a storm hear the wind howl in a deafening scream while stinging sand bites their skin. The worst storms can scour flesh from bones.
In the flat areas of Athas, sandy wastes do not hinder travel. Oases, wells, and stands of tough scrub can sustain desert dwelling creatures and people indefinitely. Flat sand is easy for travelers, although a lack of landmarks increases the risk of becoming lost.
In areas that have dunes, travel is more challenging. Mekillot dunes, named for their passing resemblance to the huge drakes, can be hundreds of feet tall, but most dunes rise no higher than a hundred feet. In wastes where the winds shift or collide, star dunes might form. The ridges of these mounds extend away from the main mass, forming arms that spread out like tentacles in all directions.