Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
So, here is the much-anticipated 2nd instalment from my trip to Oman. As I walked into the hotel lobby, feeling deflated and wary I soon cheered up as I fell into conversation with a charming young French man (let’s call him Patrice). Patrice was organising to hire a car the next day to take a drive down the coast to the SE of Muscat. I thought that sounded like a great idea so I invited myself along. After we arranged for the hire car we walked down to the Corniche for dinner. We talked and laughed and found that we have plenty of things in common. It was an easy and uncomplicated connection. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel and had a couple of nice cold beers that tasted to me (after 4 weeks in a dry country) like heaven in a bottle! It was a bit rowdy in the bar as a group of Arab men had been allowed too much alcohol and they were shooting pool balls far off the table and smashed 2 glasses then stood among the broken glass to take a shot. The bar staff did not know how to handle them and left them to do what they wanted. I don’t think it would be a suitable place for a woman to have a drink on her own.
Our start the next morning was delayed by 1/2 an hour due to the car being late. We set off eagerly but as it turned out severely ill-prepared for the complexity of the roads of Muscat. We took wrong turn after wrong turn (trying to navigate from a road map that shows the entire country) and eventually found our way out of the city and onto the correct road (50km later!) towards Sur.
We chatted and laughed as we cruised down the excellent highway, admiring the stunning landscapes of Oman. Patrice is a perfect travel companion thanks to his happy demeanor, steady conversation and flexibility in changing plans when needed. Fortunately his English is great because there’s no way that my few words of French would have worked! As we drove along we started to fret when our petrol light started to flash unexpectedly but happened upon a petrol station at the last hour. For a ridiculously small amount of money we filled the tank and headed off again.
We had intended to reach the stunning Wadi Tiwi but realised that we had lost too much time already so we stopped instead at the eye-poppingly beautiful sink hole at Bimmah. We walked down the concrete stairs, descending 20m into the sink hole, which is 40m wide. We marvelled at the crystal clear water but were a little reticent to swim in it while so many Arabs were standing watching. We then noticed that 3 westerners were already swimming in there, including 1 woman in a bikini. We decided that it was too alluring to miss this chance so we joined the swimmers and floated into the warm, salty water. There were lots of small fish that fed on the dead skin cells on our legs and feet and made us giggle. I can definitely recommend visiting this beautiful spot.
From the sink hole we drove over to the nearby beach and prepared to swim in the Oman Sea. When we were up to our ankles in the nice warm water, we discovered that the black things near our feet were sea urchins so we abandoned that, shrugged and laughed and walked with great care back onto the pebbly beach.
We headed back NW towards Qurayyat and admired the big wadis that had cut valleys into the mountains and left big flood plains. We also watched with interest as a storm approached, heralding the first rain that I’ve seen in all of my travels in the Middle East.
By the time that we entered the fishing village of Qurayyat it was raining steadily with gusty wind and none of the typical fishing boats were anywhere to be seen. Also, when they say ‘village’ you should not picture a quaint and picturesque hamlet, instead picture a chaotic semi-urban sprawl that’s a bit run-down.
We wanted to find lunch in Qurayyat but everything was closed for the middle 4 hours of the day so instead we went to a corner shop and bought a few snacks. While in there I watched in dismay as an Omani man with a cane bullied a small boy in a thobe to run an errand in the shop and when the boy refused the man yelled and gently shoved him in the backside with his foot. The man didn’t seem to be particularly cross though so I wasn’t sure if it was theatrical or serious.
We munched as we drove past these breathtakingly beautiful mountains that looked more colourful after being washed by the rain.
Back at the Mutrah Hotel, we dropped off the car and I asked if we could get changed in the hotel toilets (we had already checked out of our rooms). Instead, the kind manager arranged for us to use the hot showers in the hotel gym and even supplied towels, soap and shampoo! It was a great kindness of the manager. It felt lovely to finally be dry after sitting in wet swimmers for a few hours. The hire car organiser used our car to drop us off at the airport and we found that we were very early but also relieved to not have missed our flights. I love Oman and I can’t wait to go back there, hopefully on my next solo work trip to this region!
My other posts so far on this trip: