Good day to you! I hope you’re recovered from trawling through Oman! No.5; I know it took me a few days rest to get over writing it. Ready for the next bout? Then we’ll begin.
On Thursday the 11th of April, we set out early to attempt the ‘Muttrah Walk’, which despite being just ten minutes’ stroll from the largest port in the country, is a rocky and deserted mountain hike; you feel as if you are the only group for miles around. Having returned from a night out just hours before, the walk presented a satisfying challenge, with a teacher and his family, having volunteered to lead us on the route, looking on with bemusement.
Later that day, we met up with the same teacher, to travel to Wahiba Sands, one of Oman’s most visited attractions, being the highest quality desert within a few hours of Muscat. We met Badir, our Omani guide and were led to his camp in the desert.
Badir was an enthusiastic guide, and straight away ushered us into his severely weathered 4×4, to experience what’s known as ‘dune/wadi bashing’. Essentially this is driving very fast and carelessly across bumpy desert, while your Omani guide cackles every time you almost flip over. Fun!
Later, we walked to the highest ridge around, to watch the sunset. From this ridge we spied the only life nearby, that being a Bedouin village in the distance.
We enjoyed the amenities of the camp, including table-tennis and coffee and dates, until dinner time, which was a delicious spread of typical ‘Omani’ food (though there is no national cuisine, Omanis make very good replications of other Asian dishes, such as biryani, porata, and dahl). When the night had truly come, we drove a short way out in to the desert, where the lack of nearby cities afforded an almost unspoilt view of the stars.
The next day, after a breakfast of dahl, I finally got to try something I’d been anticipating ever since I came to Oman; sand boarding. We were joined at the camp by some other Omanis, one pictured here:
It was immensely enjoyable; however the slog up the dune, carrying a board and treading on burning hot sand, was something of a limiter on how many times I came down. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable experience.After this, we made the journey home.
But the day was not over! That evening, we were guests at the house of our delightful Arabic tutor, AbdulAziz. Of Sudanese extraction, his home was lovely, and brimming with welcoming family members, including some adorable children. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take my camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Skipping ahead a few days, notable only for a school day cancelled due to a water mains problem, and a hellish trip to the PDO Planetarium with Year 3, we come to the 16th of April, and a hockey match between the Muscat Arabian Foxes and HMS Monmouth, a British Navy ship with an intriguing history.
Before announcing the score, I must say that the Monmouth players were extremely good sports, and that at least four of their players had not picked up a hockey stick before that match. Unfortunately their enthusiasm and astounding physical fitness could not stifle the skill of the Foxes, but the final score of 5-1 to the home team shows the quality of both teams.
This was followed by drinks at the Grand Hyatt hotel, where the Monmouth players made good use of the few hours before their midnight curfew!
The next day, once school had ended, we began an ill-fated venture to Dubai with another member of staff. ‘Ill fated?’ you ask? Well having set off at 4.30pm, and arriving at the Oman/UAE border at around 8pm, our teacher friend realised that had forgotten his passport. ‘Good joke!’ we all cried. We then arrived back in Muscat at 12am. As I say, ill fated.
The following day, the 18th, we had another attempt, at 7.30am. With passport checked, double checked, and triple checked, we made it across the border, and were in Dubai by midday. At this point we parted ways with our colleague, and explored the Mall of the Emirates, famous for its in-house ski slope! However, as noted by one of my colleagues, the only people who enjoy Dubai are there either to make money or to spend it. And as we were unable to do either, Dubai didn’t hold much charm for us. That evening, on an emphatic recommendation, we visited the Titanic restaurant, owned by Marco Pierre White. I’m no restaurant critic, and so all I will tell you is that a small glass of house red cost £15.
The next morning, with considerably lighter pockets, we visited the famous Dubai mall, the largest shopping mall in the world. Enthralled by its aquarium and ice-rink, we were nonetheless still unable to really appreciate Dubai’s attraction. Unconvinced, we turned for home, the much more welcoming, cultural, and real-life city of Muscat.
That’s all for now, and I hope that you’ve either learned or enjoyed something, and maybe even both!
Important note: the tenth photo in this post was not taken by me, nor on my camera. I would give credit if I knew the name of the one who did take the photo!
Further note: the three hockey photos were also not taken by me, but were taken by a colleague on my camera.
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…
I think I’ve been very lucky this summer, having had two fantastic holidays, and having seen some amazing things. By far the best scenes of the summer have been the landscapes, so I thought I’d share a few!
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…
First of all, a rare glimpse of some blue sky.
And secondly, a blue Venetian mask, in my macro tent.
I’m entering the first photo for the Photo Challenge.
Simple enough… I considered what I should snap this week, and I decided that as Macro is my favourite type of photography, I’d take a macro photo. Incidentally, the one to be entered is the third photo.