Frankincense, Common Sense and a Whole Lotta Randomness


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Middle East » Oman » Muscat
November 26th 2011
Published: January 12th 2016
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2011 Mapping my Route

MY 2011 ROUTE: Peninsula Malaysia*Sabah, Malaysian Borneo*Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo* Indonesia* Peninsula Malaysia*Sabah, Malaysian Borneo*Philippines*Peninsula Malaysia*Sri Lanka*India* Nepal*Dubai*Oman*Jordan*England*USA

Additional maps: Oman Nov 19-26, 2011

Up early the following morning, we continued on the journey northward, this time to Muscat, the capital of Oman, stopping along the way to explore a few small towns off the highway. We drove through a residential neighborhood in one non-descript town called Adam, admiring the houses and enjoying the kind smiles and numerous, unexpected waves of hello from the locals. We were repeatedly flagged down, stopped and asked, “Are you okay?” "Are you lost?" “Why are you…here…in Adam??” People – men – couldn’t understand why we were there in that desert town but to me these are the more authentic places where the people, markets, buildings, etc are located. This is where I find the genuine charm and curiosity, kindness and helpfulness of the locals. This is adventure. This is living.



A desert-colored brown pickup–type military police vehicle pulled us over outside a gas station. The policeman who came to the window checked our drivers licenses, passports, Omani insurance and car registration, all of which of course checked out. “Hi, how are you?” asked the friendly, smiling chap. “If you need any help you just let me know,” he told us, before wishing us a safe journey and waving us on. He was very, very nice and not intimidating at all. He seemed happy to have pulled over two western women and to have engaged in a few minutes of question and answer time. Nothing like breaking up the otherwise same-samey everyday routine.



At one point while driving north through absolute nothingness we spotted on the left side of the road (guess that would be the western side) a playground, randomly placed in the middle of nowhere; there was no nearby town, no houses, no buildings of any sort for miles in any direction. The only conclusion I could come up with was that this would be for unruly or antsy kids whom the parents would be overjoyed to let run off some steam before clambering back into the car for more endless driving. This site made us both giggle uncontrollably, probably because neither of us had ever seen anything quite like it before. When I say there was nothing around, I mean there was nothing around. Not a bench, not even a tree.



Why are there so many zigzag diversions on a straight road? How does this happen? Sometimes we
Gents Tailoring shops, one after anotherGents Tailoring shops, one after anotherGents Tailoring shops, one after another

The long row of women's tailoring shops were on the opposite side of the street
came across successive signs on the road: 1000 meters, 500 meters, 100 meters, all the way to the “diversion” itself, which was often nothing more than a minor road veer, always well-marked and wide enough to not have to slow down as much as the numerous “slow down” signs threaten. There are relatively few highway signs indicating the towns/distances coming up but hey, when Oman decides on a 20-meter diversion it’s hella sign posted! Go figure. Where’s the logic in all this?



After dinner the other night we took a drive through Salalah’s uninspiring but very lit up city center area where there was an entire city block of only men’s tailoring shops, maybe 14 in a row, with no other shop in between. Funny. And random. How does one choose where to go when one's clothes need mending? Is one tailor more superior or skilled than the next?



In the mountains a few days ago, we had come across a huge parade of camels running joyfully and frantically down the middle of the road and yesterday morning we again got to experience that on a flat expanse of road, this time up in
Omani Traffic Omani Traffic Omani Traffic

Camel congestion
the mountains above Salalah. Camels in the desert, whether traveling in herds or running animatedly down the road are always a delight to observe.



Last night, before stopping to sleep, we got to a sizable town with more lights ablaze than in any place I have been since the beginning of the journey. There were actual streetlights on this road, far more than I was used to, even from any Western country. Another 2-lane highway into town ran directly alongside the main one we were on, with non-working (as of yet) streetlights lining that street as well. The town seemed to be on our right and yet again, at least on the outskirts, didn’t appear to be built on or around the new road, just way off of it, almost completely out of view. Hm? We drove a good 15 minutes under the bright glare of the constant streetlights, located one right after the next, with nary much space in between, the lights having started so far away from anything that even remotely resembled habitation. There was a sign pointing to a town, supposedly on the left, but nothing was there, and not one sign could be seen for the town itself, which was, of course, located on our right.



Today we saw a random “Site Office” sign with no office in sight.



Today, for quite awhile, we followed a second almost identical road parallel to ours that appeared to be primarily unused. There were no cars on it in either direction, and since we were diverted onto it at one point for some unknown reason, we actually had to use it for a number of kilometers due to the concrete barrier between the two roads preventing us from moving back over, in order to find our way back over to our lane again on the next road over. Nothing like being the sole car in any direction on a brand new road. If you build it they will come…or not.



We got to the Frankincense Reserve just before sunset (by the way, heed this random note: they have great bathrooms there, seemingly brand new and certainly the best in all of Oman). There were many trees in various stages of growth, each with it's own drip system setup and a very small roundabout in the empty parking lot - which quite possibly could be the smallest roundabout in the world - and which Natalie so enjoyed driving around (and I so enjoyed videoing her do so). We had the place to ourselves and enjoyed walking around for a bit and of course using the facilities.



We got a kick out of a random speed bump on the crest of a hill. Why was it there?



We finally made it to Muscat, the white-white quickly expanding capital city alongside the dark blue sea where we met our CouchSurfer with whom we will stay for the next couple of days. She had to work during the days so we went exploring and shared our adventurous stories with her in the evenings...over dinner...on her rooftop terrace...overlooking the city. Ahhh......



Our first full day in the capital, Natalie and I drove around and ended up in an obscure village where we came across a small building that looked rather intriguing. We parked the car and as we were walking towards it, curiosity in our minds as to what it could be, three kids bounded out of nowhere wanting to chat and practice the little English they knew. We were soon the best of friends, walking along hand in hand, as if we were a close-knit family. We were soon invited back to their home, where we were treated like royalty by the parents; that is, from the father of the kids, as the mother stayed well hidden in the deep bowels of the house, frantically putting the plates together for us, her impromptu guests. She certainly wanted to make sure we didn’t walk out of the house hungry. We ate ourselves silly at the insistence of the entire family, and out of sheer respect, felt it not well-mannered to fall into a deep food coma while sinking deeper into their comfortable living room couch. The entire time we were in their house they burned frankincense, an aromatic incense of sorts, which might possibly be the first time I was exposed to it. High quality frankincense is so readily available throughout Oman but other than the trees I saw and admired up close the other night, I don’t recall ever being as closely exposed to it as I was in that traditional Omani house.



About that intriguing building? Yeah, we never got there.



Oman left a deep impression on me, despite the short time spent in the country. I believe there is genuineness in their being and character (I speak of the men here as we had very little contact with the women of the country, but am certain they are equal in their magnanimity), a kindness, gentleness and a general desire to help anyone not the least of those from a different country. Everyone we encountered went over the top to be kind and gracious, true and genuine, but not overbearing or showing suspicion in any way. Their hospitality and caring came with no strings.



Oman, I am sad to leave you, but I will be back some day, next time for longer than eight days.


Additional photos below
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With quite tasty food, I might add!
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An afternoon spent with a traditional Omani familyAn afternoon spent with a traditional Omani family
An afternoon spent with a traditional Omani family

The women of the household had to clear away for the picture but the husband and kids were eager to get their picture taken


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