Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trip to the Interior

I just returned from a two-day trip with the YES Abroad students into the Interior of Oman. The Interior is a completely different world from Muscat. Expanding over the vast majority of the Sultanate’s land, the Interior is sparsely populated. Rolling mountains and a lack of water make it difficult for towns and cities to be sustained. However, small villages dot the mountains. These villages, mostly consisting of 5-6 houses, are often still filled with hand-built houses. My journey into this land is chronicled as such:
The Drive
On the way to Nizwa, I was picked up by our program coordinator, Fatin at about 7am. After picking up the other students, we met our guides at a petrol station, where Fatin parked her car. We were split into two vehicles (4 wheelers because we would, eventually, be on un-paved roads). I was with Bailey and Fatin with a guide named Sa’eed, who was by far the most knowledgeable person about Oman who I have ever met. He taught us about geography, different types of aflaj, and many more things throughout our trip.




On the drive, I actually made my first camel sightings! We saw two camels wandering near the highway and a third eating something from a metal bin…


Basically, our drive ensured my belief that Oman is a beautiful country, albeit one that makes me a bit nauseous to drive through—mountainous driving for a flatlands girl can be a bit overwhelming sometimes!

Nizwa Souq and Fort
We arrived in Nizwa after about an hour and a half of driving. Nizwa, the former capital of Oman, is home to a beautiful souq (traditional market) and a several-hundred year old fort.
First, we ventured into the souq. The Nizwa souq sells everything from fruits and vegetables to fish to handicrafts to postcards. We bought some pomegranates from an old man selling them for our dinner.





We also ventured into the fish market, which, well, smelled like a fish market!

Then we wandered around the souq some more, seeing handcrafts and other small shops.



Following the souq, we went to the connected fort. Reconstructed 30-40 years ago, the Nizwa fort is beautiful.  






Al Hoota Caves
We went to Al Hoota Caves, a massive underground cave system. We were unfortunately not allowed to take pictures, but had a great time walking around the (very, very humid) caves and learning about the history and animal life of the caves.
Misfat Village
We went to Misfat Village, a small town located on the slope of a mountain near Al Hamra. We parked, and then walked through the old part of Misfat to a house where we were to have lunch. Misfat is built for a pre-car era, and there are tiny streets that you have to maneuver to get anywhere. We saw some girls carrying water on their heads… quite impressive, really! We also went to a family’s house for dinner, and got to have some delicious food. We never saw the women of the house, though they had prepared the food. Instead, we saw the man of the house and one of his sons. After lunch, we got to go sit on the patio for dates and tea!
After lunch, we walked around Misfat for a while. We got to see the main falaj system in Misfat, which supplies all of its drinking, washing, and farming water. There was also a pool, connected to the falaj, where some local boys were swimming! Noah decided to join them, and jumped off of a roof into a fairly shallow pool… he survived though, with photo documentation!






Al Hamra/ Bait al Safah
Al Hamra is a larger town just down the mountain from Misfat. It is home to a small museum called Bait al Safah, which teaches about what life was like (and still is in many towns, like Al Hamra!) in old Oman. Mostly staffed by women, visitors can see what daily tasks include, and even can try them out! We got to try grinding flour and I tried to make crispy flat bread, both of which are tasks that women must know in order to get married. I managed the flour grinding but the bread was nearly impossible. We also got to try out some beautiful Omani traditional clothing, and as was joked “look at Noah and his four Omani brides!” Just not. No life-changing decisions on the YES Abroad program ;)



Traditional Dhofari dress!
Jabal Shams
After Al Hamra, we headed up to Jabal Shams (literally the Sun Mountain), the largest mountain on the Gulf Coast. Jabal Shams is the first spot to be hit by sunlight in the morning in Oman. News flash: Jabal Shams actually gets COLD! The night we were there, it got down to 0˚ Celsius! We sat outside with blankets and sweatshirts and it was fabulous, despite what our lovely Omanis (and Floridians, for that matter) said. Unfortunately, I got a migraine and had to go to bed early, but that meant I also got up early! Bailey and I were both up at about 5:30 and so we went outside to see the sunrise… it was absolutely beautiful.
Sunrise!



“Omani Grand Canyon”
Our last stop was Wadi Nakhar, the “Omani Grand Canyon.” We had planned a 3-hour hike, though it ended up being more like 5 hours. However, the view was amazing, though mildly terrifying at times. There were a few old villages inside the canyon. Until less than 20 years ago, people lived in the one we passed by, and we saw another at the very bottom that is, in fact, still inhabited! 

Women selling handicrafts by the road. We bought bracelets and keychains from them. 

3 comments:

  1. This is wonderful! I am so glad you are having these wonderful adventures and then taking the time to write them down! Thanks!

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  2. Emma, you're so lucky to get to experience things like this! Oman looks absolutely beautiful. My mom recently introduced me to dates and I love them! Haha, I'm glad you're having fun! :)

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  3. Wow! How beautiful. It's not just 'desert', which is what people automatically assume of the middle east: it's rocky and exotic. Glad you're having a good time!

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