Oh man we're in Oman
Here we are in Nizwa city, Oman after having driven through the desert and mountains for the last three days with (somewhat) planned gaps in internet service. Including Oman, the last three countries we’ve visited have been for roughly two weeks each and that time has really flown by in each case. It’s been great to get a sense of what life is like, but it certainly leaves you wondering about all the things you weren’t able to see. Speaking of seeing things, what exactly have we done here? I may have mentioned this already, but we took a bus from Dubai through the desert all the way to Muscat, the capital of Oman. We weren’t sure how busy the border crossing would be, but everything turned out straightforward except for the bus driver not dropping us off at the location we wanted so we could finish his route quicker and then repeatedly lying about it. I had heard Omanis were honest people, so I tried not to let this affect my initial impressions of the country as we spent the next few hours backtracking to where we needed to go. Lost time aside, we were able to get our rental car and we made it to our hotel.
Muscat was surprisingly nice and clean, with many buildings spread out over several miles along the coast but not a skyscraper in sight (and nowhere else in the country for that matter). Muscat is basically several small towns that have mashed together over time and has quite recently become the capital of the country. Each “town” within Muscat is different, with for instance Mutrah having a winding souq and beautiful Corniche to old Muscat with museums and the royal palace. It was a great city to explore for a few days.
Sultan Quboos Mosque, Muscat
From Muscat we drove a few hours to the town of Sur, making a few stops along the way. The first stop was to the Bimmah sinkhole, which local legend says was created when a falling star crashed to earth. The resulting hole is filled with salt water funneled through underground natural waterways from the gulf and makes for a great place to dive in and cool off. Secondly we stopped at Wadi Shab, a water filled gorge just outside of Sur. After taking a boat across a small lake, you hike down into the wadi (gorge) which takes you to some amazing fresh water pools for swimming. If you can manage it, it’s possible to swim through the pools to a mostly underwater crevasse that reveals a cave and small waterfall. Truly magnificent!
Arriving in Sur late in the afternoon, we rested after our hikes and explored the town the following day. Sur is a coastal city known for its dhow ship building yard, which is the only active one in the entire country. Aside from a few small castles, we came out to this region to see one of the rare places in the world where five different turtle species come to shore to lay their eggs. Although we were there in the low season, we crossed our fingers and were rewarded with a couple baby turtles finding their way out to sea and a large turtle laying eggs in the sand. The entire process takes over two hours to lay the eggs and she will lay about 200 at a time. The sad truth though is that only a few of those 200 will actually survive to maturity. Nature sure is cruel.
Building those boats
Baby turtle finding its wayBaby turtle finding its way
Mama turtle laying eggs in the sand
From Sur we headed south into the desert area called Wahiba Sands, named after the Bedouin tribe that has called it home for many generations. Although we’ve camped in the desert a few other places, this seemed like a nice way to unplug and learn about what life is like in the desert. We booked a tent at a Bedouin camp with promises that we would accomplish just that. We were not disappointed.m Sur we headed south into the desert area called Wahiba Sands, named after the Bedouin tribe that has called it home for many generations. Although we’ve camped in the desert a few other places, this seemed like a nice way to unplug and learn about what life is like in the desert. We booked a tent at a Bedouin camp with promises that we would accomplish just that. We were not disappointed.
I've been through the desert on a...
Our camp in the desert
Dressed to party Oman style!
We were three of only nine total guests in the entire camp. After getting settled in, we were invited to dress in traditional Omani clothing and learn some of their dances. We have pictures of us in costume but unfortunately for you there were no pictures taken of us doing the dances. Terribly sorry about that. After being served a massive dinner, we joined our Bedouin host around a campfire and learned all about his way of life. The knowledge and the stories really made it a priceless experience.
With our short time in the desert over, we next headed up into the mountains for a look into what life looks like there. Our first stop was only 3000 feet up to the small town of Misfah. Nestled on the side of the mountain, we stayed in the heart of the crumbling mud house village. It overlooks a beautiful palm tree oasis on one side of the mountain and features walks along the mountainside which also boast incredible views of the surrounding area. Add all that to the secluded, serene setting and an amazing Arabian dinner (and breakfast) and it certainly makes for a great place to stay and get away.
Mud houses of Misfah
Beautiful oasis while trekking around Misfah
Leaving Misfah, we headed close to 10,000 feet up to the top of Jabal Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. Being so high up the temperatures are around 20 degrees less than at the base, which meant around 50 during the day and around freezing at night!! Undeterred, we made the drive (about half unpaved) in our 2WD car to the area at the top known as the Arabian Grand Canyon. I’ve never been to the US Grand Canyon, if you have let me know if they look similar. All three of us did a three hour walk along the rim of the canyon, and I must say, we rocked it. Staying at a camp on top of the mountain, we were once again spoiled with an amazing Arabian dinner and breakfast. It got quite cold at night, but we managed to keep warm with the heater blasting. Anything less than 70 degrees is cold to us now!
That actually brings us to today, where we are in the Nizwa area to check out the forts and castles that have been built in this region over the centuries. We’ll spend our last few days in Oman in this area flying to Qatar for a 5 day intentional long layover. I will say that Omanis definitely do seem to be honest, good natured people. They are helpful and don’t seem to want anything in return. The other areas we’ve visited haven’t been as nice or clean as Muscat, but we haven’t seen anything that really made us pause. It’s a very safe country and we haven’t felt otherwise anywhere we’ve gone. We feel blessed to have been able to come here, as this is another region that is still relatively untouched by tourism, and so we got to see it for what it really is.