Oman exemplifies “good things come in small packages.” We only visited the northern part of the country and still experienced every kind of landscape. For our last few days we left the mountains for the desert and then the sea.
On the way from Jabal al Akhdar to Wahiba Sands, we stopped in Al Mudayrib, a charming village that has retained many of its historic buildings.The watchtowers attest to its position along the caravan route and the views from the abandoned fort show the mix of old and new.
A Sharqiya Sands
Then it was on to A’Sharqiyah Sands (also referred to as Wahiba Sands) – 10,000 square kilometers of pristine wilderness that is the original home of the Bedu. There are several desert regions within Oman, including the infamous Empty Quarter. A’Sharqiyah is relatively easy to access with a wide range of facilities from camping sites to luxe hotels.Of course, we were only able to sample a minute portion of this expanse but what we saw was magnificent. Our camel ride at sunset provided us the opportunity to see the multitude of colors and experience the incredible tranquility. I have ridden camels before and this was by far the least comfortable experience, as Omani camels have only one hump and the saddle is placed behind it making for a somewhat uneven ride. Nonetheless, these camels – known as the ships of the desert – were friendlier than most I have encountered and look at those eyelashes!I took hundreds of photographs of the mesmerizing textures and patterns all around me, but this is one of my favorites.
After spending the night in the desert, we headed to the Gulf of Oman and the city of Sur, a trading center since the 6th century. We visited the Dhow museum showcasing the sailing vessels that were integral to Oman’s sea trade routes. The exteriors are teak with walnut interiors and cedar hulls. Iron nails are used in construction and replaced by wooden ones later. They are sealed with a mixture of shark oil and lemon juice. Sur remains a center of shipbuilding and repair and is the capital of the Ash Sharqiyah region.Above you can see dhows under the new suspension bridge, more watchtowers and one of the 75 mosques in this city of 120,000. The majority of neighborhood mosques are built by successful individuals who want to give back to their community.
Along the coast from Sur to Muscat, there are numerous beautiful beaches such as this one. Our plan had been to hike up and swim through the cave in Wadi Shab but the same rains that thwarted our hike in the rose terraces prevented this as well, due to three feet of water in the canyon. We contented ourselves with searching for sea shells and admiring the gorgeous turquoise sea.Back in our “Japanese Camels,” the Omani nickname for the ubiquitous Toyota 4x4s, we took one last look at the beautiful mountains as we headed to Muscat for our final night.Oman exceeded my expectations. I encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and a taste for the less-traveled routes to visit this amazing country.