Can you handle another blog post about Oman
You'll be happy to know that we didn't get stuck on any two-lane winding camel-ridden mountain roads for five hours this time. We stumbled onto the brand new dual carriageway from Muscat to the south just as we hoped we would and had hardly any wrong turns after that. Oman is still throwing down new highways like it's going out of style but the signage is still abysmal. Oh well. We had a lovely trip. Here are some highlights of things I haven't blogged about Oman before.
Church. I really enjoy going to church in foreign countries. It's trickier to do than you think - you have to be in the country on the day they have church (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), in the city where there's a congregation, and in the know about where the building is. We finally made it to church in Muscat and although I spent 1.5 of the three hours dozing on the couch in the foyer (as the designated Oman driver, I was allowed this privilege), it was awesome. It was also the perfect travel break - we got to stretch our legs, be spiritually uplifted, meet some new people, use a clean bathroom, and the girls got to play with children. Yep, perfect travel break.
We tried to go see the Muttrah Souq in Muscat but it was closed. So I took a picture of this nearby fort instead and called it good. We have never properly visited Muscat but there is so much else to do in Oman that I haven't felt its absence from our itinerary too keenly...yet.
We found a camping spot with its own private pebble/boulder beach near Al-Fins on the coast.
We pitched the tents up on a small bluff overlooking the ocean. The next morning after breaking camp, all us adults one by one disclosed how nervous we had felt during the night about the waves coming up over the edge. It's a good thing we didn't share those thoughts in the middle of the night (and a good thing the waves didn't
come up over the edge) or we would have packed up and moved the site.
We drove down the coast a ways to enjoy a softer beach and while the water was cold, it was gorgeous.
At Wadi Shab, these boys were playing on the playground. Cute little mini-Omanis.
After exploring Wadi Shab and the Bimmah sinkhole, we headed up to Jebel Akhdar, upwards of 2000 meters elevation (about 7000 feet). Then, in a brilliant stroke of adventurousness/naivete, we camped there. We put on every article of clothing we had and all of six of us (with my mom and Carolyn) slept in the same tent to share warmth. You may scoff at our wussiness, but consider that it has been almost two years since I've been able to see my breath outside. It was COLD. Deliciously so. It was good to feel nice and cosy while camping for once.
The next morning when the sun came out, we explored our surroundings a little more. We camped up on a ridge that is called Diana's Viewpoint, after Princess Di, and this was our view. She visited here some years ago, although she was flown in by helicopter instead of braving the impossibly steep road that winds 25km up the mountain.
Enjoying my own Princess Di moment (photo taken by Miriam).
The setup. I should take a moment to recognize our new tent, which was brought over from the US by my mom in her luggage. It is so functional, so big, and glorious to behold. We love it.
Magdalena is a great camper, but she can only handle so much of the wild before she has to find a way to remind herself of civilization. On previous camping trips, she has just worn a dress over her rugged clothes. On this trip, she chose to get out her coloring book and markers on top of Jebel Akhdar.
We had a great hike among the villages in the mountains, with lots of terraced gardens that are lying fallow for the winter season.
This is what a school bus looks like in the mountain villages of Oman.
In the middle of this extensive mountain range were two lovely playgrounds. I have no idea why they are there. But they made for a great pit stop!
The next day (we're on day #3 now), we decided to go a little out of our way home to visit the 5000-year-old beehive tombs at Al Ayn, Oman. You know how sometimes you're on your way home from a trip and you're in your groove and you reach the point where you don't even want to drive five minutes out of your way for anything? Well, these beehive tombs are about 45 minutes out of the way but they are well worth it.
In conclusion, Oman continues to be awesome. We had a great trip and enjoyed some new experiences. I have to say, Oman has to be the cheapest international vacation destination EVER, at least if you live in the UAE. On our first trip to Oman in 2010, we changed about 200 dollars into Omani Rials. And guess what? We are still working through that original wad of cash, a few trips to Oman later. If you pack a lot of food, as we tend to do, the only money you ever spend in Oman is on the entrance visa (50 dhs for residents) and gas. That's it. Like I said, cheapest international vacation destination ever.