River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Nine days in Oman

December 2010

Janet tells us about her recent holiday in Oman

I recently returned from a holiday in Oman, a country of deserts and mountains, and wonderfully welcoming people.

I started in Muscat, a very attractive old walled town, probably one of the most attractive in the Gulf. It's surrounded by a horseshoe ring of mountains. I went to the Grand Mosque where 6,000 people can worship at any one time. It is constructed almost entirely of white marble and inside on the floor the prayer mat took four years and six hundred weavers to produce, covering 4,200 square metres and weighs 21 tonnes. They have used 28 different colours in varying shades and intricate designs; the mat contains 1,700 million knots. I visited the Souk where I haggled with the traders over the price of material, spices and gifts. My first night was spent in a hotel, but the following morning I left at 8am ready to spend three days in the desert.

While in the desert I visited Wadi Shab, a beautiful oasis of freshwater pools, I spent an afternoon with the Bedu; nomadic tribesmen who roam the desert with goats and camels, where I was treated to coffee and dates, and had a hair-raising drive across the dunes, before setting up camp, allowing just enough time to see the sunset. The night skies were so clear; there were more stars than I have ever seen before. Mornings started early and I had to be ready with tent packed by 7.30am. On the way to our next camp I had the chance to go for a swim in the Indian Ocean where I saw turtles and jumping fish.

After three days in the desert when you could quite easily bump into a wild donkey or camel in the night when you had to answer a call of nature, I was quite pleased to see civilization and have two nights in a hotel in Nizwa. While there I visited the local market where you can buy saffron, and many other spices at a fraction of the price we pay in the supermarket. I also went to Nizwa Fort which has been turned into a museum. Frankincense is exported from Oman, and I saw how the resin is harvested and even found a small piece to break off and bring home. I traveled through the mountains including Jebel Akhdar which is the highest mountain range in Oman and included the Oman equivalent of the Grand Canyon. There are lots of small communities in the mountains, it is hard to see how they survive, but although Sultan Kaboos has offered them the chance to live elsewhere, most choose to stay and are given new houses which cost them nothing, and are theirs to keep.

My last drive was through the stunning Wadi Bani Awf, where we left smooth roads behind and headed into a narrow canyon with steep sided cliffs. After a picnic lunch it's back to Muscat and the hotel to get ready to leave this stunning country.

Travel dates 1st to 8th November

Temperature 35c

Janet Stocking

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