Tag Archives: oman
The Desert. Oh Arabian Nights!
I wanted the real desert, not the desert of oil pipe lines and gas flares. I wanted golden dunes and mysterious silence, camels and glamorous bedouin tents, not the scrubby rolled stone and boiled sand that makes up our tatty desert. No, I wanted the desert of Lawrence of Arabia.
And I found it. It didn’t come cheap, but we stayed at Desert Nights Camp and it was an experience to remember. The road getting there was a little hairy, especially in a low, basic Yaris but I take my hat off to Toyota, because even with all the sand we collected under that car it still ran on and on and got us there and back without a hitch.
The camp is in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It is only 11 km from the nearest village but it might as well be on the moon for the desolate silence, the soft footed and gormless camels, the dramatic stars and the dune scape. Within minutes of arriving both girls were up a dune and running down as fast as they could. A little later we were driven up a mountainous dune for the sunset and we all ran back to camp giggling and feeling the fun and freedom of running over a mountain of sand. Handsome and Trooper Sand boarded the next morning ( think snow board, then think sand) and all three of them took a hair raising excursion on an ATV for an hour. There was a short camel ride, tea and dates in the shade, a game of cards outside by the fire, shisha under the stars, wrapped up in a warm shawl.
It took my breath away.
Oman is a country of contrasts. Muscat runs like a sliver along the coast, ancient forts and highways, palm tree dotted roads, decorated roundabouts and shiny sky scrapers; blue tiled mosques, a winding labringth of a souk and five star hotels all face a lapis sea. Behind this sliver lies a majestic and imposing mountain range, brown in some lights, red or grey in others, barren rock that winks at the sun. And if you take a road that cuts like a glaring wound through the mountains you will arrive at a desert the likes of which only live in the Arabia of legends. An infinite and harsh landscape of undulating dunes, as high as mountains that stretch on and on ad-infinitum, like rolling ski hills with no snow. And the sand is red, gold, thick with gold dust; footsteps are erased minutes after we walk, as if we had never existed. And then back through the rock, sharp gashes through stone until, once again we spy the sea, glinting in the sun.
Deep in the mountain ranges of Oman live tiny villages with communities of people who walk for hours with a donkey to get supplies and news of the world. There is a first world that hold hands with the third here, and a modern land that holds history in its palm. It is a place with ancient traditions and a time line that stretches back to the days of slave trade and a port that saw people come and go from Iran and India to the eastern coast of Africa. There are windows that I saw in the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya and faces that I knew had the Indian sub continent in their past.
We spent 5 days in Oman, four nights in Muscat and one in the desert, also known as the Wahiba Sands. Hotels are pricey in Oman, especially as there is a general refusal to put a family of four in one room, demanding that we get two. So the likes of the splendid Chedi and Al Bustan were out but we decided to stay at the Intercontinental who were very accommodating in giving us a room with two Queen Beds. Or so we thought. Turns out there was an entire Italian Opera company staying at the hotel at the same time as us; the brand spanking new Oman Opera House had invited them to perform Carmen ( although not a ticket could be had for love or money.) So the Italians filled the hotel to the brim and had taken every last room. Oh what is a family to do? The hotel kindly popped us into the Royal Suite, complete with a living room, dining room, kitchen, three TVs and three bathrooms.
So between living like Kings and hearing the bellowing voice of a practicing Tenor down the hall, sharing a line for the breakfast cappuccino machine with loud Italians still wearing traces of theatrical makeup from the previous night’s Opera, and walking on the beach with the sharp and powerful mountain range behind, we felt we were in a story book.
Oman is like that. Stories swirl in the air, between the tiny walls of the souk and the camel’s tread in the desert, or the echo of a cave in a Wadi, it is a place that leaves its magic hanging, long after you leave.
Particularly if you purchase Frankincense and one of the lovely burners that are sold in the Souk. Frankincense and its accompanying cloud of fragrant smoke is the scent of Oman, and now we have it at home, for with a strike of a match and a magic bean of the golden stone, we too can remember some of the magic.
A very busy start to 2012 here in the home of 3limes. First an amazing trip to Oman, then a quiet and unusual Christmas Day spent on the Beach in Bahrain and finally a touch of home and family with a visit from my sister and her whole brood who came over for 5 days over New Year’s.
And now as the flurry of excitement and holiday is over and it is back to work I am left with stories and photos to sort, Christmas ornaments to carefully pack away and an empty fridge to replenish.
I will come back soon, I promise. But in the meantime here are three little memories from the past few weeks, and what lovely weeks they were.