The calls of prayer echoing around the old city of Muscat mysteriously into the night sky, we had arrived in Oman.
First thing, jump in the car we have hired for the next ten days, still disorientated from the nine hour overnight flight from Manchester and find our Air B&B. Not to mention driving on the wrong side of the road, in an automatic car (P, R, N D, 2, L, what the heck does it all mean?!?!) on the Muscat city expressway. For once Miz is glad she never managed to pass her driving test!
It’s the people that make a place, we were instantly blown away by the friendliness of these amazingly genuine people. Polite and always eager to help, we instantly felt at home here. During our first couple of days we visited the sights of Muscat by car as the city is extremely spread out. Spending the evenings jogging along the local beach at dusk eating delicious corn on the cobs and meat skewers from barbecues along the shore.
Our eyes were open as we set out on a road trip of this fascinating country. Driving up to the mountains from Muscat was pretty hairy, like a game of cat and mouse, I quickly realised indicators don’t exist and that the Omani laid back manner goes out of the window when on the road! We followed the empty, winding coastal road onto Bimmah sink hole for a dip.
Driving on to the breath taking Wadi Shab, (a wadi is a kind of gorge which has crystal clear pools of water and cliffs for diving). We left our gear with a French lady and set off through the wadi, along with a guy called Tariq from Paris we had met, who upon taking his photo for him resembled the photo shoot of Peter Andre in his mysterious girl video, Cheers Tariq! 🙂 The scenery was spectacular.
We arrived at the coastal town of Sur at sunset and headed to an Indian restaurant called Zaki. We had two huge curries, enough bread to feed a family of ten, rice, salad, onion raita (only half of this we actually ordered!), oh and dates, they seem to come with everything in Oman. We asked to take most of it away and carried it round with us for a day.
Sur was a pleasant surprise, old ship building traditions and a lovely peaceful beach and corniche. The staff at Sur hotel consisted of a receptionist from Yemen and a man we named Manuel (Fawlty Towers!) from Bangladesh. He entertained us with his Michael Jackson dances and love for Brazilian footballer, Neymar.
Heading from Sur to Wadi Ban Khalid was a scenic drive with the majestic Al Hajar mountains to one side and the dunes of Wahiba Sands to the other. Whilst trying to find the Wadi, we got totally lost for about an hour, with only one windy eared donkey in sight which turned out to be a great shot for my Dad as he has a love for donkeys! We finally made it, swam at the pools of Wadi Ban Khalid and spent the night at Oriental Nights Rest House with a lovely Omani guy and his Nepalese staff, oh and we polished off the remains of our curry along with a random 4 oranges the staff gave us.
The trip between Sur and Nizwa was a long dusty journey, passing small villages whose only lifeline was the narrow road that stretched endlessly into the distance. Nizwa, a mountain town surrounded by the highest peaks in Oman, is famous for its fort and Friday morning goat market, the town was a nice surprise. Sitting in the shade of a fig tree sipping on spicy tea was a lovely experience. The souk was great, they had sections for everything; dates, meat, fish, crafts, jewellery and even a section selling weapons and guns, :(. I stuffed my face with dates, which the Omani guys kept giving us and wouldn’t let us pay for a single one! Then we headed back to our Air BnB, which was basically a child’s bedroom come storage cupboard with a bunk bed in the corner. Everything from Pampers nappies, yoga mats, guitars and wrapping paper were stacked neatly around the room, reminding us of an Aldi supermarket from home! It did however, turn out to be one of our most enjoyable places, with a comfy couch for chilling out and an endless supply of movies to watch making us feel right at home. We woke early to take on Jebel Shams, the highest peak in Oman.
Heading back to Muscat along the brand new expressway was a time for reflection. What an experience it had been road tripping throught this largely empty and captivating county, a nature lovers paradise which can still be enjoyed without great crowds, but for how long, who knows? Ultimately, it is the people here who make you feel welcome and at home, extremely kind, never too pushy and genuinely happy to have you in their country, along with some of the best natural landscapes on offer!
Go and discover Oman!
Lots of love to you all, Mizark X
A few last pictures of an old abandoned mudhouse village!