Published: January 21st 2009January 15th 2009
Tree along the road
The land in Oman is arid but still a few trees manage to survive
...and yes, I simply love sand dunes
After we left Sur and the coast our first stop was Wadi Bani Khaled. Oman is a dry land. One of the few places where fresh water can be found is in the valleys, the so called Wadis. Since there is water in the wadis that is also a place where you can find some vegetation and where you can have a swim. A swim in fresh water is a rare thing in a country where well over 90% of the land is desert so it is quite understandable that the wadis are popular to visit.
Wadi Bani Khaled is one of the most popular and most easily accessible wadis in Oman. There is a big parking lot at the entrance to the wadi and walking paths leads to a large area with pools and spots where it is possible to swim. The lower pools were too crowded so we decided to go a bit further up the wadi. There the wadi was much drier but in a few places there were still pools large enough to have a swim in. The water was a lot cooler than I expected. I can
At the market in Nizwa I saw this old man. I am happy he let me take a photo of him
imagine that it is very popular to come here in the summer and cool down when temperatures most days reach 40° C or more.
After Wadi Bani Khaled we went to Wahiba Sands
- a large sand desert in the eastern part of Oman. I have a soft spot for deserts in general. One obvious reason for this is the fact that it almost never rains in deserts. I get enough rain at home and if possible I like to avoid it when I travel. But I also like the rugged, dry and seemingly lifeless nature. I find it very beautiful and having visited a few deserts I know they are far from dead. Most of all I like the sand deserts. The sand in the deserts makes sand dunes and I just love the shapes they have. I simply love sand dunes. They beat the hell out of snow drifts any day like I wrote in the first entry I wrote on Oman
There are many places to stay in the Wahiba Sands and we ended up in one of the more absurd ones. Jordi and I expected to sleep in a tent in a Bedouin camp
Another old man photographed at the market in Nizwa
with no facilities other than a blanket and a pillow. Instead we stayed in a resort with nice beds, showers with running water and a restaurant that served excellent food. I guess "the genuine desert experience in a Bedouin tent" will have to wait until some other time.
Less than an hour drive from Wahiba Sands is a town called Sinaw. Sinaw has one big tourist attraction and one smaller. The big one is the Women's Market. It is a market with mainly female vendors and most of the customers are also women. I didn't find the market in itself to be any interesting. The attraction of the market lay is the fact that women, not men, are doing the business. It is not unheard of elsewhere in Oman that women are shop owners, but it is a bit unusual. But to this particular market women come from far away to do business thus making women to dominate it. And that makes the market one of a its kind in this country.
I heard one or two westerners complaining that people at this market were hostile. I understand why people were a bit unfriendly. There were many tourists
Wadi Bani Khaled
This is the largest pool in Wadi Bani Khaled. It is very popular to swim here in the summer
visiting this market. Taking photos of women in Oman is not accepted. A few times I asked women permission to take photos of them but each time the request was denied. In spite of women not liking to have their photos taken quite a few tourists took photos of the vendors and the customers just like they were animals in a zoo or something. I admit that I wasn't much better myself. I also took a few photos of the women at this market. But at least I had the decency to use a big lens thus making it possible for me to stand well away from the people I took photos of. It's not a nice thing of me to sneak off photos of people when they don't realise what I do. But it is much better than shoving the camera up their faces and take the photo before they have the time to say no. I am a teacher and sometimes my students take photos of me when I am working. I don't like when that happens to me so I can fully understand why the people were unfriendly to some of the westerners.
The other attraction
Wadi Bani Khaled
Further up Wadi Bani Khaled it gets drier
in Sinaw was an old abandoned village, or a ghost town, in the outskirts of town. The houses in this village were all built by mud bricks. Since the houses are not in use any more they are falling apart from neglect, and that is what makes them so attractive to me. I find that there is a special beauty in ghost towns like this. The houses were nice once. You can still today see that they were built with care and when I walked around a was constantly admiring the craftsmanship behind the constructions.
On the way back towards Muscat we passed a mosque I had seen before. The mosque is in the town Bahla on the way to Nizwa. I passed this mosque sitting in a bus about one week earlier and then I was frustrated that I wasn't able to stop and have a look at it. This time, since we had our own vehicle, we could stop. We stopped for a while and had a look at the mosque. Only from the outside though. In Oman westerners are not welcome to visit most of the mosques. One exception is Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat,
Wadi Bani Khaled
I one of the smaller pools I decided to have a swim
which can be visited in the morning most of the days. I will write more about that mosque and show a few photos of it on the next entry of the blog.
A few kilometres from Bahla is a town called Jabrin where there is a wonderful castle - Jabrin Castle. If you like castles, Oman is a good place to visit. They don't have the biggest castles in the World. You can see much bigger in India for instance. They don't have the oldest castles in the World. There are much older castles in Great Britain for instance. They don't have the most beautiful castles in the World either. There are some really beautiful castles in France for instance. What they have in Oman is many
castles. So many I didn't even bother to see more than a few of them. I am very happy that Jabrin Castle ended up among one of the few castles I saw. It was by far the best castle I visited in Oman. It was partly furnished and there were also beautiful restored paintings in the ceilings.
Before returning back to Muscat we visited one last place on our trip with
Here is a big boy with a big toy. The driver really showed off when he drove through the sand dunes. Could it be because he had three attractive young women in the car...?
the rental car - Wadi Nakha. We were on our way to Wadi Ghul, a wadi billed as "the Grand Canyon of Arabia". We thought that sounded promising, a chance to see one of the most dramatic wadis in Oman. Instead of entering Wadi Ghul we turned off near the entrance and turned into Wadi Nakha - an equally dramatic but lesser travelled Wadi. After driving only about a kilometre into the wadi we had to park the car because the road was too rough for our little Toyota. Instead we asked a man who lived near where we parked our car if he was interested in driving us in his 4WD truck deeper into the valley. We negotiated a price and off we went. The man took us maybe 5 kilometres further to a small village there.
Wadi Nakha can not compare with Grand Canyon of course, but it was still worth visiting. Both for the scenery and for the nice people we met there. When we came to the village in the end of the road we were offered coffee and dates. I like both coffee and dates, but the combination of the two was a first
...and yes, I simply love sand dunes
After the visit to Wadi Nakha we drove back to Muscat and left the car at the rental agency.
But I still had one more place I wanted to visit in Oman before returning back home - Bat Tombs. Outside the city Ibri is a small village named Bat. Near that village is a collection of old tombs. The exact origin of these tombs is somewhat of a mystery. The oldest tombs are believed to be maybe 4000 years old. There are about 100 tombs in total and most of them look like a heap of stones. But a handful of the tombs have been partly or completely restored to give visitors an idea of what they used to look like.
There are more photos below