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Entries about air travel

Near to Yemen

Nope didn't cross the border

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Oman September 2006 on erodrigo's travel map.

Today I had a day at leisure, time to reflect on what I’ve see so far and think about what to write more about this land of contrasts, the best thing I came up with was just tell you what I did yesterday and let you decide for yourselves.
We went to the west yesterday in the direction of Yemen, don’t worry we stayed in Oman, after another kidnapping of French tourists last week I wasn’t planning on going there yet.
First we went to visit the tomb of Job, at least they claim its here, because as I understood it Syria has also two sites which claim to be the grave of Job. So either Job was a much disorganized person leaving parts of his body all over the place or some of the sites are not all they claim to be. After this my driver/guide showed me the trees the Dhofar region has been known for, for centuries all over the world, the frankincense trees.
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I started wondering who and how someone came up with this product, because to get the frankincense you first have to cut the bark of the tree, after which the tree starts to ‘bleed’ milky white liquid. Then you have to let it rest until it dries up into crystals and only after that you can pick the crystals and burn them for their sent. I’m sorry to say my driver didn’t know the answer so you have to look it up for yourself if you want to find out.
After this painstaking question remained unanswered we went up into the mountains to see some spectacular scenery. Although the roads in Oman are very good, they stay very steep and have some very sharp turns in them, which make driving trough the Omani mountains not for the people with weak nerves or high anxiety. Those of us who do not have these fears enjoy the drive and can’t get enough of it.
We topped the day of by enjoying a pot of Omani coffee, very strong and bitter coffee accompanied by dates, at Mughsayl beach. Here are blow holes perforations in the limestone rock, which sea water gushes through during high tide.
I asked my driver to take me to a nice restaurant in town where I could enjoy a lovely meal; he must not have understood me correctly because he took me to the Oasis club, which is a Expats bar. (Expats are people from all over the world working in a country of which they don’t own citizenship)
And as luck turned out I crashed another party, this time from an expatriate who was on the brink of returning back home to the Netherlands, after a 23 month stay on extending the harbor of Salalah for Maersk. Together with his colleague they where the only two Dutch guys around in Salalah, well after me joining them there was a 50% increase in the Dutch population in this town. Just goes to show you how one man can make a difference :-)

Posted by erodrigo 06:43 Archived in Oman Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

Queen of Sheba

semi-overcast 29 °C
View Oman September 2006 on erodrigo's travel map.

Monday the 11th of September, yes 9/11, I visited the west of Salalah. Our first stop was at a fishing village called Taqah, it must have been an important or strategic town in the past because it was surrounded by four watchtowers/forts and a real fort at the centre of town. We proceeded further west to visit the queen of Sheba, well that is, the ruined city of Samhuram at Khor Rori creek, which is said to have been a residence of the queen of Sheba.
After we paid our respects to her majesty we went on to Mirbat, the ancient capital of the Dhofar region. In the 9th century this town was famous for its trade in frankincense, horses and slaves. Now it looks like a sleepy little fishing town.
On the way back to Salalah I got my first up-close view of how green the region is after the Monsoon season. Near Tarqah we turned toward the mountains and drove for about 8 kilometers over some steep and sharply curved roads and ended up at a valley. What you see is unbelievable if you have you’re average idea of how the Middle East looks like. You get the idea that you’re in a valley in the Alps, but you can’t rime it because the trees and flowers are completely wrong for the Alps. After the Monsoon there is an abundance of trees, flowers and water.
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The Arab people love it and during the monsoon season itself they drive and fly up here in hordes, a room is hardly available then in Salalah. Since I arrived one week after the schools have started I had no problem getting a room, but don’t think it will be that easy from June till August. There where still some Arab tourists left, I saw a couple form Kuwait and one from Dubai, both in there own car and some other people enjoying a picnic near the river. Well it makes a lot of sense when you think of it, that people from the Middle east come hear during the rainy season to enjoy the coolness and have a picnic in the rain. After all we western’s fly off to the sun to escape the rain because we have so much of it, so why not the other way around if you have sun and heat all year.

Posted by erodrigo 00:32 Archived in Oman Tagged air_travel Comments (3)

Salalah, Oman

How a 1000 Km make a big difference

sunny 29 °C
View Oman September 2006 on erodrigo's travel map.

Yesterday I flew to Salalah from Muscat and it’s absolutely unbelievable what the locals bring with them. Except from the enormous bags; I saw, amongst other things, a big screen digital TV and a Keyboard.
The temperature had dropped 10 degrees Celsius, from a hot 39 in Muscat, to a very agreeable 29 degrees Celsius here in Salalah. Also the difference in landscape struck me, I new it would be greener here, but I hadn’t expected this. It’s a lot greener after the Monsoon than in Muscat, everything is blossoming.
What also struck me is that a lot of the women here wear facials masks and in Muscat hardly any woman wears one, maybe it’s because they’re more traditional here in the southwest of Oman. This morning I noticed a woman eating with the mask and they lift it up just enough to let the spoon reach the mouth, it must be very uncomfortable.
Today I went on my first tour to see Salalah. The first stop was the supposed tomb of Ishmael, the grandfather of Jesus. My first thought was that he must have been a very tall guy because it was 10-12 meters long, but my guide explained that it was so long because they didn’t know exactly where the head was so they covered “the whole 9 yards” :-)
After that remarkable visit we drove along the Garden Farms where there was an enormous display of fruits, dates and coconuts, all freshly picked from the trees and put up for sale at the stands next to the farms. The way they farm here is very ingenious, the highest plants are the coconut and date trees, then at the middle level you have the fruit trees and at ground level they grow the vegetables, in this way the vegetables aren’t burnt up by the sun.
We also made a stop at the Shanfari mosque, which is beautiful through the green colors and the interior designs. Hereafter we visited another holy place, namely the Camel Footprint. It’s believed that the Camel of the prophet Saleh was killed here by opponents of the prophet and his footprints were put in the rocks and his blood stained that same rock. Whether it is true or not, it’s a good story and if you see the rock it actually makes sense. After a drive along the Sultans summer palace and a visit to the new and old souq, where they sell lovely smelling crystals of frankincense, we drove to the archeological park. Here are the ruins of an old city which even Marco Polo made a note about. We were very lucky, because the new museum had just been opened yesterday and we were one of the first visitors there. The museum hasn’t been opened officially yet, off course I was very honored :-)
Well kids good night and more tomorrow or the day after, I’ll see when you deserve it.
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Posted by erodrigo 11:04 Archived in Oman Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Wadi bashing

Contrasts in Oman

sunny 39 °C
View Oman September 2006 on erodrigo's travel map.

Yesterday it was time to see some of the contrasts, which exists in this country. We started the day by a two-hour drive to the Wahibi sands, on arriving we were greeted by camels who weren’t planning of moving and so we drove around them, which is no problem in a Four-wheel drive. After this minor setback :-), we hit the sand dunes and I was happy I fastened my seatbelts. If not I would be bruised on places I didn’t even know I had. But after the drivers were trough playing, and got struck in the sand a few times, we reached a Bedouin camp were we had a cup of coffee.
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After this stop it was off to wadi Bani Khalid, there couldn’t be a greater contrast than this. Water here was all around and our drivers had a hell of a ball with it, they looked like little boys again. It’s unbelievable to see the amount of water that is flowing trough this wadi, well off course it helped that in resent days rain had been abundant but still. There were children playing and swimming in the water and women doing the dishes and we were spraying everyone by driving fast trough it :-)
Well that’s all folks, well for Muscat that is, tomorrow I fly to the southwest of Oman and will bore you with stories about what else you’re missing by not coming to Oman.

Posted by erodrigo 00:41 Archived in Oman Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Around Nizwa

How many forts can one handle

sunny 36 °C
View Oman September 2006 on erodrigo's travel map.

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Today we toured around Nizwa, to begin with we visited the souq of Nizwa. Our visit yesterday was after all brutally interrupted by some raindrops. The souq's in Oman are nice, you’re not bothered by pushy merchants who want to sell you something. Only if you ask the price, negotiations begin. If you say yes to the price the merchant is asking, you will be hailed in his prayers and laughed about in talks with his friends. After this we paid a visit to wadi Tanuf, because of the rain of the last week the wadi was full of water and not dry which it is most of the year, this gives it just that little bit extra. The former town Tanuf was destroyed in 1957 by order of the father of Sultan Qaboos (the present Sultan of Oman). He asked the English for this destruction because a Madi had decided he wanted to be independent and started his own Madinat. Which didn’t fell well with the former Sultan, because he strived to a united Oman.
After a short visit to this destroyed and abandoned village we went to see yet another fort, the one in Bahla, this one’s on the UNESCO world heritage list and is presently closed for public because of the renovation. Most of the fort is already reconstructed; only one last part is still being worked on. This gives you a nice view on how rigorous reconstruction can be, because the color is quite off from the part that is already reconstructed and you can still see that the original fort was very much destroyed.
To top the day off we visited the palace at Jibreen. It looks like a fort but was really a palace and it’s the only palace in Oman. The great thing about it is that it has a lot of stuff in every room so you get an impression how simple live was in the 1700’s.
After this we had a long drive back to Muscat, but we made a coffee stop at the restaurant we ate the day before. Food is great and cheap in Oman, when you go to a restaurant, outside your hotel. For a meal of soup, main course and drinks you only pay 3 Oman Real, which comes down to about 6 Euro.
So now I’m back in Muscat and tomorrow we go into the dessert to ruff it up a bit and after that it’s off to Salalah on Saturday, where it must be very green and cool by now (25 C) at the end of the monsoon season.

Posted by erodrigo 07:22 Archived in Oman Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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