Well, after 3 years I’ve finally made it further than the Omani border patrol.
To celebrate the UAE’s National Day, we got 3 days off of school, aka a 5-day weekend and the perfect amount of time for an introductory rip to Oman. We headed off on Tuesday morning with no expectations or plans other than to reach Muscat that evening. From there, who knew.
We started the day in good ol’ Ruwais, packed and ready to start bright and early (and yes, 8 AM seems bright and early to me…).
We had to take a slight detour in Abu Dhabi to pick up my…wait for it…custom designed abaya. My travel buddies can tell you how excited I was for this. After a few minor alterations, we were back on the road and I was nearly giddy with excitement.
I’ll pause the recap for a sec to explain the abaya choice. In the UAE, westerners are free to wear [almost] whatever they want. We don’t have to cover our hair, we can wear bathing suits to the beach, and t-shirts and capris in public. I am actually the one choosing to dress more conservatively than required. (For two reasons: 1. I would like to show respect whenever/wherever possible and 2. Have you ever tried teaching in a low cut blouse or short skirt? It’s not enjoyable.) Back to the abaya thing. We weren’t sure where we were going to travel in Oman and I’ve heard from various people who’ve lived in Oman that some towns are more conservative than others. So, I decided early on that I didn’t want to be “that typical American” during the trip (you know the one- has no clue about local culture/customs, offends someone wherever they go, etc). By wearing an abaya and covering during the trip, I was hoping to blend in. Plus, let’s be honest, I’ve been enamored with abaya concept since day one. I wanted to feel as regal and beautiful as all the women around me. So I wore an abaya. And covered. The entire trip. And I loved [nearly] every second of it. Seriously.
Back to the trip. We spent about 12 hours in the car and saw some beautiful desert mountains (before it got dark…).
We got to Muscat around 9 PM and easily found our hotel. Anyone who’s traveled in a foreign country knows this is quite a big feat. The hotel was unsurprisingly sketchy. Elevators as old as the country itself. A hallway full of used mattresses. Doors that didn’t really lock. A pigeon living in the broken AC unit. (No joke.) At least there’s running water and clean sheets, we reassured ourselves.
To get away from our room for, we explored the neighborhood a bit in search of dinner. Found a little Grill Shop to eat shish tawook. In every country, ittle neighborhood places are like a fabulous game of food roulette- you either have the best meal of your life or a dreadful case of food poisoning. We were lucky enough to hit the first option.
The next day (after surviving the night in our room!) we accidentally found downtown Muscat and wandered around for a while.
Then we drove to the corniche and the Muttrah Souq. This is where I got my first glimpse of what I’ve always pictured this part of the world to look like (despite having lived in it for more than two years). Whitewashed homes build right into the mountains. Chickens rummaging around the yard. Weathered men and women walking up and down the street like they’ve been doing for the past 45 years.
Then we saw the forts. And I was officially in love with Oman.
We wandered around the Souq and the corniche for a while. I think we were all blown away by the mountains and the water.
Having a car means that when you inevitably get lost, you might come across something even better than what you were trying to find. Enter, the royal family’s [very 70’s] palace. And the Omani National Museum that is sadly not open yet. Good excuse for another trip, I suppose!
After the palace, we decided we wanted to drive to Nizwa during the day so we could see all the wonderful mountain ranges we missed the night before. Sure enough, they surpassed my expectations.
A few hours later, we reached Nizwa and checked into our hotel. Our room happened to be brand new. Making up for the night before, perhaps? We had dinner and chai at an outdoor cafe, then went to bed early so we could have ample time to enjoy the brand new mattress. 🙂
The next morning, we went on a search for jebal ahkdar, or Green Mountain (Which we never found. Another reason to return!) Insead of the mountain, we came across some ruins. Perfect. Then we drove up and down mountains for a couple hours. Terrifying. We asked the cutest, most wrinkled gentleman how to get to jebal ahkdar. He paused, looked at our car, and started shaking his head. There was no way we could get to the mountain without a 4×4. Bummer, but on to the next adventure!
We semi-accidentally (sense a theme with this trip?) found a restored fort in a little town called Bahla. It’s apparently kind of famous, as there were tourists from all over Europe walking around the town. After an encounter with my first (but not last) Omani squatty potty, another delicious local cafe meal, and the required after meal chai, we walked through the fort. Cool building, but there were no explanations about the rooms or the history of the fort.
After the fort, we decided to drive back to the UAE and spend the night in my favorite little town- Al Ain. It was wonderful to get to show off my old stomping grounds. The next day we finished the [long and boring] journey back to Ruwais. A short, but fabulous trip.
One last picture, I couldn’t resist.