I spent two days in the Sharqiyya region of Oman doing fun touristy things with my YESers. It was likely the most action-packed two days of my life, so I was pretty tired by the end but it was definitely worth it!
We left early on Thursday morning from Amideast, and our first stop was Quriyat. Quriyat is a fishing town, and is actually still in the Muscat region. It’s maybe an hour away—but just a few years ago the Quriyat road opened and cut down a 9 hour travel time. We only stopped for a few minutes to take pictures. And swing on swings, but I don’t think that was officially on the agenda. I was reprimanded for noticing that there was a seesaw but somehow managing to miss the beautiful beach, the ancient fort, and the ocean next to the seesaw. Eh.
After Quriyat, we had a lot of shorter stops. We went to see Qalhat, which was a seaside village destroyed by a massive earthquake in the 13th century. However, a building lovingly dubbed Bibi Maryam (Grandma Maryam) still stands, so we went to see the ancient old building. Many legends surround the building—who Maryam was, in particular. It is widely agreed that she is buried in the building though. One, which was scoffed at by our guide, was that Maryam was Jesus’ mother, which makes no sense considering that she would have lived all the way across the Arabian Peninsula from there. Another story is that Maryam was a beautiful young girl, and she was so beautiful that her father wanted to marry her (umm, ew?) and so she ran to that building and vanished from there. Meskina!
Then we were off to the sinkhole, which is a massive, well, sinkhole. Not too much else to say, but it was interesting. Then we went swimming at a beautiful, white-sanded beach. That kind of place makes me wish that Wisconsin had more beaches, because it was just amazing and warm.
After the sinkhole came Wadi Tiwi, which is a wadi that curls back very far into the mountains. There were at least two villages, actually both quite green. We saw mango trees, guava trees, and orange trees. I was not aware that any of those grew in Oman, and neither was our Omani program director. After a heart-pounding trip up a cliff up the mountain (all the while thinking ‘I am so glad my mother isn’t here because it would be a heckuva lot worse’), we ended up in a small village with very fascinating doors, a tower, and access to a part of the wadi that is most certainly National Geographic-worthy. After a mountain goatesque hike involving me falling partially into a stream of water (yay for super-strong Omani sun drying my socks in a half an hour!), we stopped for lunch and some breathtaking photography. In all seriousness though, there is no way that I actually managed to capture the beauty of Wadi Tiwi or anywhere else we went. It was just too much awesome. And then I saw a guy galloping on a donkey, which certainly made my day, because I had no idea donkeys could move that quickly, especially when burdened by an adolescent boy.
After these stops, we made it to Sur, which is one of the four largest cities in Oman. The eeriest thing about this place was that in our several hours over two days there, we saw two women. One was British and the other was a housemaid. It was just bizarre to see so few of my gender. In Sur, we went to a dhow-building factory. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any of the actual building, but I did climb a super-sketchy ladder in order to see the inside of one.
|The lighthouse in Sur|
|A fish market!|
After Sur, we headed to Ras al Hadd, where we would be spending the first night. On the way, we saw what was maybe possibly my favorite part of the trip—A TIGER! Remember when I posted about the missing tiger from Muscat? Well, I didn’t find it. What we did come across, however, was a tamer cousin, aka a giant rock painted like a tiger. Infinitely safer, and I could sit on it. Ba-da-bing!
We stopped by the hotel, had Pakistani food, and were off to a turtle reserve where we would hopefully get to see green sea turtle laying their eggs! We weren’t assured of seeing anything because this is the off-season of egg-laying, but we were in luck! Four turtles were on the beach, laying eggs that night. We weren’t allowed any photography, so I’ll try to paint a mental image here. Turtles in the sand look like big rocks in holes. With heads and flippers. We were in three groups, and ours was the YES group, our program director, and a lot of Danish tourists. We walked around the beach, taking turns looking at various turtles. Mostly we just saw them covering nests, but luckily at the end we got to see one actually laying eggs! An interesting fact is that of 1000 babies, maybe two or three will live to adulthood. The rest will either not hatch, get eaten by a fox or something, or just die of a variety of other factors.
The next day, we awoke at our hotel to go to Wadi Bani Khalid, which is a very touristy place, but was nonetheless wicked fun. We went past the bulk of the tourists, mountain-goated over some rocks, and had coffee for the 90812309283th time of our two-day trip. Then, a young boy offered to show us up the wadi a ways. Wadi Bani Khalid is outrageously deep in some places, so we had to actually swim. It was better though, because wadi gravel is painful on bare feet! It was so surreal to be there… we were in a channel, surrounded on both sides by boulders, swimming through blue-green water.
Then came the grand finale to our trip: Wahiba Sands. I’ve wanted to go there for a while, but this was the first time I had a chance to. Wahiba is a desert in every sense that you have ever imagined. It takes four days to cross driving, ten on foot, assuming you keep a swift pace. There are miles and miles of endless yellow, orange and red dunes, as tall as five-story buildings. They just roll forever and ever. Once again, pictures just cannot compare to the vastness or the color. A few times I was positive I was going to die though, when our driver took us straight over dunes that essentially just dropped a few hundred feet. Ma mashkila. No problem. Also, I ran down a sand dune and quite on accident made a faceplant, which was caught on video. Typical Emma, eh?
We also got to visit with a group of Bedouin who were currently living there. I say currently because they do move around quite a bit. We had coffee and dates and got to see their house. Basically, it was just sticks from some kind of tree trussed together. There is no need to protect from rain because, well, it’s the desert. There also were some canvas tents around, and it was all inside of a makeshift fence.
After a while, a young man came into the building. We followed him outside and he had a camel with him! Noah, Bailey and I each rode the camel, which was very different from when I’ve ridden a camel before (which was at the Wisconsin State Fair, and had a saddle and everything). This one had a Pac Man blanket hung over its haunches, and to ride it was to face imminent possibility of losing your seat. However, we are clearly all turned to Omanis by now so none of us fell off!