Our second morning in Oman started with a combination of tiredness from the travel and excitement. We had planned a trip to into the dessert with our taxi driver, and soon to be friend, who we had met the night before. We had arranged a tour through our hotel but when Fahed told us he could offer and organise a similar experience at a better rate we went with it, happy to support a smaller operator. He picked us up early that morning at the Grand Hyatt and we set off. On learning that ‘coffee shops’ don’t really sell coffee Fahed took us to a Costa cafe, where as irony would have it, we grabbed our London roasted coffee. Nevertheless, armed with caffeine we drove away from Muscat and into the desert.
As we left Muscat and the sea behind us we discovered the landscape can be described simply with two words – sand and rocks. The countryside was as close as one might feel to being on Mars. But this doesn’t mean that it is not strikingly beautiful. The impressive highway lead us easily through the Martian landscape with its high mountains and small goat-roaming villages.
It took us about 2.5 hours to reach a small town on the outskirts of the Wahiba desert where Fahed had arranged a very serious 4×4 to pick us up and ferry us into the desert. We drove into what was definitely desert although not quite what we had expected. We didn’t go very deep into the high rolling sand dunes but nevertheless still had fun. To go deeper one would have to drive further and probably arrange to camp ( known as Wahiba Sands tour ).
We stopped in at a local family who served us cardamom coffee and dates inside their bedouin tent. Its quite amazing to see and imagine how people live in such a harsh environment, considering that it can reach 50°C quite easily during summer. They live modestly yet comfortably. We chatted to the kids who were learning English in school and bought a few handmade bracelets. Being in the desert we were keen to ride camels. The family had a pack of camels in an encampment a few minutes away which we could ride. To our surprise they all jumped into a nice new Land Cruiser 4×4 parked around the back of the tent and we drove together towards the animals (the quantity of nice 4×4 cars in Oman will rival any country). We took turns riding the camel for about five minutes each – nothing extreme but a good laugh. One camel in particular was extremely cooperative and photogenic and only too happy to patiently pose for some pics.
Fahed met us at the next town some two hours later and we drove toward Wadi Bain Khalid. I’ve used the term ‘oasis’ many times before to describe a beautiful place, but its only when you see one in its true environment do you really get to appreciate its meaning. When you’re on Mars and suddenly you’re surrounded by hundreds of palm trees – that’s a ‘wadi’ and the contrast is truly spectacular.
It’s was a Friday and a public holiday so the wadi was fairly busy. We walked up and into the valley. Locals were enjoying and spending the day with the family, many having a barbecue. The big pools of clean water were a sight for our sore eyes after the hot day in the dessert. We had a quick bite to eat and made our way up stream into the narrowing valley. It was very picturesque. I had to cover up in order to swim – a shirt and short pants on top of my bikini like the other foreign girls. We swam and jumped off rocks into the deep pools. Despite the amount of people it wasn’t overcrowded and we imagined that on a quite week day it would be perfect here.
Our drive back to Muscat took us forever! Fahed took us on a longer coastal route via the town of Sur, keen to show off more of his country. We arrived back nearly four hours later in the dark, stopping on the highway above the city to take in the lights Muscat. Another extra thanks to our new friend!
Goats roaming around
If you even visit Muscat, please contact Fahed +968 9546 5454, the best and most patient driver and a guide. If necessary, a photographer too 🙂