Hello! After a somewhat hurried blog post previously, sit back and enjoy its successor, enormous as it is crafted.
At the end of March, I attended two more events at the Royal Opera House Muscat, which was hosting an a capella festival . On the 27th I saw Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, a female choir from Bulgaria, who performed in national dress. Of course recordings or photography were not permitted, so Youtube will have to suffice. The following night, I returned to ROHM, this time in dishdasha and mussar (alas, no photos), to see Cantus, an American male choir. Their performance was truly spectacular, and this was my favourite song (not a hint of bias). I wholeheartedly recommend that you attend any performance of either of these groups!
On Friday 29th of March, my colleagues and I sailed east of Muscat on a plushly decorated dhow, a ship of ancient Omani heritage (a dhow roundabout is pictured in my second Oman blog post).
With a nod to the British Ambassador, we sailed east for about two hours.
Reaching an exact place known only to our captain, we dropped anchor and surveyed the scenery around us.
At this point we had a few hours simply to enjoy the peace. Some swam, some snorkelled, there were even kayaks. Until the jetski arrived! A friend of a friend of the captain (which seems to be the dynamic for most opportunities in Oman), gave rides both on the back, and on a rubber ring dragged behind at high velocity – a bumpy ride! After some hours had passed (all too quickly), it was time to sail back, which at sunset provided some fantastic views.
Now then, this is where the real blog starts, as the next day (30/03/13) marks the first day of the famous ROAD TRIP. Unlike many of the Western schools in Muscat, the Sultan’s School gets only one week for Easter/Spring Break, and so we utilised our short time as efficiently as possible.
Starting in Muscat, which is in north Oman, we drove south-east, to a fantastic sink hole. As with everything magnificent I see in Oman, I was shocked that there were so few people there.
After a few hours of relaxed swimming and sunbathing, we proceeded further south-east, to Sur, the proverbial ‘one-camel’ town. It was entirely deserted, other than a herd of goats roaming the streets. We passed this fort, and hoped to look inside, but of course it was locked. Nevertheless its external aspect was lovely in the sunshine.
We journeyed further along the coast, to the eastern-most point of Oman,the famous Raz al Jinz beach. I say famous because it is on this beach that droves of sea turtles are found to lay their eggs. Sneaking onto the beach out of hours, we saw no such thing, only boats.
Slightly disappointed, and aware of the oncoming sunset, we went a little further and set up camp on an empty beach.
The next morning, we had breakfast in the village of Juwaic. Sitting on a rug accompanied by a cheerfully football-obsessed Omani, I had a kebab for breakfast, and very delicious it was too. We then continued our journey along the coast, to the port town of An Nadjah. From here we embarked (just about) on the car ferry, and spent two hours travelling to the island of Masirah, which, we had been told by many, was a very beautiful area. We were unable to identify this however, as sunset was almost upon us, and we swiftly set up camp on a beach on the north side of the island. It was on this beach that we had the biggest and probably best surprise of the trip; on a nocturnal walk, we came across a turtle on the beach! To top it off, she was digging a hole, in which she would later lay her eggs. Alas, it is considered distressing to a turtle to use flash photography at night, so there are no photos.
The next morning, we set off on a perimeter drive of Masirah, to see for ourselves its natural beauty. However, having driven right around the north and east sides of the 40km long island, we saw nothing but dust and road. It must be beautiful in the centre. Stopping at the port (the only centre of habitation on the island), we had a wonderful breakfast, accompanied by little Abadi. Probably the closest I’ve ever come to kidnap.
After the ferry back to An Nadjah, we stopped following the coast, and instead headed into the interior, in order to reach Salalah more quickly. Passing through Haima, we camped just south of the town, and though we were only 100m from the road, it seems that the desert in the dark is a dangerous place to go wandering! Suffice to say, we got hideously lost on a ‘short’ walk into the desert, and took a long time to find our camp again. Onto the next day!
We had breakfast in al Ghaftayn, a walled village which felt very much like a compound, but they served some excellent breakfast, so no complaints here! After this we finished off our hard slog to Salalah, arriving and promptly getting lost while trying to meet our contact there (a teacher from the Sultan’s School). Eventually we made it to the recently opened McDonalds (the first in Salalah!), and after lunch, we moved on to the al Baleed archaeological park. It reminded me very much of Knossos, in that it was hot, and there wasn’t much there.
After that, we had a short journey east of Salalah to a lovely beach, under the shadow of an extremely welcome, and welcoming expat clubhouse.
The next day, we ventured into the centre of Salalah, which for the country’s second biggest city, has but a small number of shopping streets: two in fact. In its defence, the streets are quite long, and filled with many curiosities.
Resisting the urge to get that second mussar, or that second kumma, I was however caught sufficiently off guard to accidentally get a haircut, along with head massage and wash, facial exfoliation, back, shoulder, and hand massage, and valuable life tips (one girlfriend is not enough, get three).
We then explored some wider parts of Salalah, which the pictures will detail better than I.
We then visited the Frankincense museum, which was actually a lot more interesting than it sounds, as it also covered Oman’s extensive history, particularly its long tradition of international diplomacy. Culturally enriched, we met our Salalah contact once again, and proceeded over mountains to a beach west of Salalah, in fact only about half an hour from Yemen (yikes!). The views on the journey were spectacular.
At the beach we met up with some engineers and a logistician from the nearby Thumrait airbase, and as such got an excellent fire going!
The next morning, after an excellent breakfast of bacon (!!) and eggs, we took one last look at this beautiful beach (which was so dazzling that I forgot to take photos), and turned for home. This time, we just wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so, briefly stopping for probably one of the best photos I have ever taken, we drove all the way up through the interior, making the 1000km distance in about 11 hours. After this mammoth journey, I had just enough energy for a glorious shower, then bed!
Well done for making it through to the end! It took just about as much energy to write it up as the week itself , but I hope it was easier to read. I’ll leave you with my favourite photo of the trip…
Hello! I must begin with an apology for not having updated in some time. However, brace yourselves now for a bumper double update!
On Friday 15th of March, we had a trip to Nizwa, one of Oman’s premium tourist sites. Arriving very early in the morning, we just caught the end of the goat souq, and proceeded to view the various other souqs still operating inside and outside of this walled town.
Having surveyed some of the outside stalls, including the frankly intimidating gun souq, we moved into the town, and explored the shops.
Some items were perhaps a little more attractive than others…
Within the town, the fort dominates the scenery.
Within the fort itself, there was much to see. Every staircase was rife with murder holes, down which boiling date juice was alleged to be poured, and hidden pitfalls, which would see an invader fall tens of feet into a dungeon below. However the best opportunities for photography were from the high towers, looking out over Nizwa.
This concludes post no.4 of my Oman blog, but no.5, which covers my recent half term adventures, will be published shortly!
Welcome to the second instalment of my travel blog!
I’ll get started right away, as I know some of you have been eagerly awaiting the promised Paul and Katie photos.
Here, Katie is below, and Paul is on top. Not so in their relationship however; Katie is a bit of a bully!
I also thought I’d take some pictures of Martha, who was happy to pose, and looks fabulous.
Now, back to the blog. Now not every day can be an exciting one, otherwise none of them would seem so, and so for this reason, and the purposes of brevity and sanity, not every day will be related in this blog.
Therefore we will launch into Monday the 18th of February, otherwise known at the Sultan’s School as Secondary Cross Country Day! Impetuous as I am, I agreed (and if we’re all honest, insisted) to run every boys’ race of the day. The basic course is a lap of the school’s perimeter road (which does not rate the term ‘cross country’), with extensions for the older year groups. The year 7s ran just under 1500m, and the year 12s and year 13s ran closer to 2000m. I ran four races under the hot sun (it was around 30 degrees that day), and the temptation to question the reason behind such self punishment was large indeed. However the crowd of children shouting for ‘Mr Ed’ from the stands was enough to spur me on! (I’m tearing up, I really am)
Wednesday the 20th was a very unusual and exciting day. It was the final day of Book Week in the Primary school, and as such the children had been invited to come in fancy dress! The same invitation had been extended to the gappies earlier in the week, and as such my colleagues had worked furiously on three excellent costumes…
And the children’s costumes at Flag…
Later on that day, my parents visited me! They had been cruising around the Gulf on the Serenade of the Seas, and had docked at Muscat that morning.
I gave them a tour of the school, and then we embarked on a bus tour of the city.
One notable quirk of Muscat is the design of their roundabouts, which are used to display Oman’s heritage in various ways.
The next two images show the Sultan’s Palace and the Omani Parliament. I’ll let you wonder as to who holds the power…
Upon returning to Muttrah, the port district of Oman, we had dinner at a hotel with lots of fish specialities. After much consideration, I had curried shark, and delicious it was too. What made the meal really special however, was the view from the balcony, where we could see the Sultan’s personal yacht, moored right beside a passenger cruise ship. Even when bearing in mind perspective, the yacht is truly enormous.
The next day (Thursday the 21st of February), I met with my parents again, this time at the Grand Mosque. It definitely bore a second viewing, not only because of its spectacular decoration, but also I could show off what I’d learned not 5 days before to my parents!
Having bid farewell to my parents for 12 weeks, *sob*, the gappies went down to the beach to properly relax in the sun after a hard first week.
Unfortunately for Jack, this resulted in some rather vibrant sunburn. Upon inspection however, an upside was discovered…
Go on. You know you want to.
I recently went on a school trip to Greece, so naturally I took my camera, hoping for some nice shots. Unforunately, in my opinion at least, what can be a fantastic view on the first day, can very quickly become ‘same old, same old’ by the fifth day, but hopefully I’ve managed to keep my pictures different and interesting at each location…