Thursday, November 01, 2012

Oman 2012.2: The new

We went to a few new places in Oman, too!

Muscat proper/Muttrah Souq
There is so much to see in northern Oman that until this trip, we had never spent time in Muscat proper. We were always just passing through town, or filthy from days in the wild, or it was too much of a pain (or too hot) to find a place outside of town to camp. This time, after church, we stuck around for a change and went to see the Muttrah Souq.

The thing about souqs is, we've seen a lot of them. Don't get me wrong: the Muttrah Souq was suitably awesome. But it was also semi-closed because of the Eid holiday. We weren't exactly blown away by its majesty, is what I'm trying to say. After a few minutes wandering its passages, we headed out into the side streets toward the Corniche.

(I took this picture to show the spectrum of dress codes you see in the Gulf: totally Western-style to traditional robes, with a stop at shalwar kameez along the way.)

The Corniche was PACKED with humanity. Male humanity. For almost twenty minutes of walking, I did not lay eyes on another woman. Then I saw two, and one of them was my friend Yvonne, who was traveling with us. I think it was unusually busy because of the holiday. Why there weren't any women for a good stretch of the Corniche, I have no idea.

Anyway, it was nice to spend some time in the city. Afterward, we headed to another new place (for us)...

A friend's house
A family we met at church in January and then again this weekend invited our whole party over to their house to spend the evening. Let me remind you that we were nine kids and six adults. Who even does that? These people do. We took over the house for a couple of hours and used their kitchen to cook up some food. Jeremy and I and the girls spent the night there, which means that for the first time ever, I got to take a shower while in Oman. It felt good to get cleaned up mid-way through a camping trip, just in time to get filthy again on Jebel Akhdar.

Wadi Dham
Fast-forward to our way out of Oman on Sunday. We turned off the main road and bypassed the Beehive Tombs in favor of pressing on for Wadi Dham.

There's some kind of life lesson/analogy waiting to be discovered during a trek through Wadi Dham. You enter the wadi (canyon) through a stinky, filthy alcove in the rock strewn with trash, graffiti, and pee corners. But the promise of that gorgeous hike you've heard about beckons you and you push on. There was trash along the path for a while but as the climb became more difficult, the crowds (ok, two or three other small groups) thinned and the litter disappeared. I guess lazy people who don't throw their crap away also don't like to expend very much effort hiking. Maybe that's the lesson.

And this hike totally took a lot of effort, especially since it was our first time and we didn't know the best path. It was difficult for Magdalena and there were a few times when we set up a chain of adults and passed the kids from one parent to another to get over the difficult spots.

But the reward at the end was this:

We stayed there for a long time, and then took our time on the way back. Lovely lovely lovely.

In sum, Oman is still one of my favorite destinations, and one of the cheapest, too. While we did have to refresh the stash of Omani Rials we picked up two years ago, in the end we only spent them on gas and a few bottles of water. Not too shabby.

Random highs:

  • some piles of entrails by the side of the road left over from the ritual slaughter of sheep/cows/goats in honor of Eid.
  • some rural villagers dressed up in their Eid finery.
  • no huge delays at the border (though it could have been quicker).
  • we never got separated from our traveling companions.
  • no major wrong turns ("major," OK?).
Random lows:
  • the roundabouts in Al Ain on the drive home NEVER END. Jeremy and I started counting and we got to something like 18 before we gave up in order to pay more attention to the crazy roads and traffic.
  • not enough entrails, really. The worst was when we were driving through Birkat al-Mouz and saw that a municipal garbage truck had just come through the city, picking up the entrails.
  • opening up the precious pink-and-white frosted animal crackers we brought from the US specifically for a big road trip...and finding out that they were totally stale. Waaaah.
Until next time, Oman!


Kathy Haynie said...

Love the photo of the pool at the end of the hike. It reminds me of the pools / river at Opal Creek in Oregon, in a dry deserty Middle East sort of way. And I always say that I feel safe hiking / backpacking because the bad guys don't want to hike their beer more than a couple of miles in (if that).

Susanne said...

How fun!! Thanks for sharing about your trip to Oman!


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