Monthly Archives: October 2012

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Nizwa…

Standard

Yes we did!

The last weekend before our Eid road trip, we decided to hit the tourist trail and see what Nizwa had to offer. There’s a big fort, constructed circa 1600, and a souk. I considered  that I had seen one souk therefore I had seen them all!  Ninety minutes of driving south and we were soon in Nizwa town, just in time to miss the famous goat market. One or two stragglers had either escaped or merely been abandoned by humankind.

The fort was built by Sultan Bin Saif Malik Al Ya’arubi back in the old days when, it can safely be assumed, forts were actually built by the workers and not the Sultans. It is an impressive building and looks pristine having just been restored, a major undertaking lasting ten years or so. It is a delight to experience a tourist attraction without the health and safety(especially the safety) restrictions on or about the showpiece. Adults and children  are able to explore inside and out, below and aloft, where no chains or ropes exist to prevent you from tumbling over the edge of the 100 feet high tower which is easily accessible  Crumbling steps, some steeper than the North face of Everest, lead this way and that with not one piece of hemp in sight with which to steady yourself or prevent the missus falling arse over tit down several flights of concrete steps. ‘Bring your kids and let them run loose – you’ll probably never see them again, lost down a well or in A+E somewhere!

In all honesty, it was refreshing to see no H&S in evidence.  Anyone can wander about at will and be masters of their own destiny as to whether they live or die. You could even be the master of someone else’s destiny and give them a shove and a prod to send them over the edge. A splendid day with nothing roped off and all for less than £1.60 in total (two adults and one child). If you saw something interesting, there was nothing or no one to stop you going in to investigate, take stuff off the wall and have a good look, move the fixtures and fittings around and interior design your very own 17th century room!

I thought the bed was too near the draughty window, so I moved it. I really did!

By this time we had built up a healthy appetite and were jolly thirsty too. A fantastic little restaurant which I can now highly recommend is in the vicinity of the fort entrance and it is called Al Jabal Al Akhdar. To the naked eye it looks like a grubby little cafe serving Indian locals a mish-mash of rice based food without any cutlery to eat it with. Our family policy is, as always, eat where the locals eat and by so doing we will avoid the upset tums that haunt so many naive, European visitors.  If the locals eat there then it must be ok, right? Well, the naked eye didn’t lie but it was not as grubby as first perceived; more of a ‘lived-in’ look rather than a ‘never been cleaned with a total lack of hygiene’ look, I guess? Food, loosely termed, was constantly whizzing past our faces to waiting customers, the majority of whom appeared to be from the Indian sub-continent. Large plates of brownish rice with little bowls of stuff that looked wet and sticky with reddish bits sticking out of it seemed the order of the day. Patrons were seen to mix said wet stuff and crispy things into their rice with fingers, palms and then whole hands, washing up at communal sinks after the event. The smell was amazing and it was impossible to resist the urge so we ordered a lavish lunch. Forsaking ‘sandwitches’ (see photo) we had, well, some stuff (see photo) with two rounds of canned fizzy drinks, a bottle of water and a dried bit of Kingfish. Some cutlery was provided for us (spoons at no extra charge) and a box of tissues to use as general wipes. All this for £3.20! A sumptuous meal to remember for a very long time. We decided to remember the meal for about six hours on the basis that this is the time limit for food poisoning/regurgitation. Past 7pm and we were out of the woods, in the clear and on to tea-time.

Lunch needed working off so a stroll round the souk was in order. Now, there is the tourist souk with the traditional Khanjars, jewellery, coffee pots and pottery and then there’s the local’s souk with fruit, veg and hardware for sale.

tourist souk

Local’s souk

spices and hardware

trading from the back of a lorry

It goes without saying that most of our purchases came off the back of a lorry.

We headed home and awaited the safety hour…

It had come to our notice, throughout the day, that one or two fluffy, white clouds were forming in the brilliant blue skies of Oman. They stood out like sore thumbs and we even photographed one or two as we found them somewhat novel. The fluffy, white clouds all joined together and became dark and angry, nefarious and menacing. Since our arrival in Oman we had been warned of the rains that would eventually come and when they did, the place to be was NOT out and about and certainly NOT on the roads and definitely NOT driving. We drove home with 132 kilometres to go making our ‘wow’ noises as we caught sight of the weather that awaited us up ahead on the mountain roads. Bible-black clouds and streaks of forked lightening coaxed us in and as we headed up to 2000ft the rain began to fall.

The locals have a strategy for this rare occurrence and that is – PANIC! There were cars driving far too fast, cars driving far too slow, hazard lights on and then off and then on and then off again. Kids in cars hanging out of the windows looking skyward to catch the rain droplets in their mouths and on their faces, hands stretched out to touch the wet that was falling from the sky. Vehicles pulled in under bridges, cars and lorries pulled onto the hard-shoulder and some cars just stopped – STOPPED RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD – ON A MOTORWAY! Traffic moving up behind at 120kph was a recipe for disaster and then it happened – BOOM!  Right in front of us, one car straight into the concrete wall that separates man from the bottom of the mountain gulley. If that wasn’t bad enough, those who hadn’t stopped before now decided to stop and help. The temptation to use that fire extinguisher that has been in the car for forever and a day was just too much for them so anyone who had a fire extinguisher onboard (and that is nearly all cars in Oman) rushed forward, the little fireman in each of them clearly showing in their enthusiastic advances. Cars coming up behind, cars on the other carriageway, cars that had already gone past the accident, the world and his dog stopped to empty their canister of CO2 on a car that was not even burning. The collision had burst the radiator and steam was coming up from under the bonnet. The police were passing by at the time so we considered them to be in attendance and calmly drove on, still watching those minutes, hoping that we would not see our lunch again.

The rain was torrential and the resulting flood was inevitable. We soldiered on using all our ‘driving in the rain skills’ honed over so many years of disappointing U.K. summers, finally arriving home to find that lightening had blown out all electricity and we had no candles. People were wandering about outside in total darkness, in distress, calling for friends, loved ones, pets, anyone to help. We did the only decent thing we could think off at the time, we turned around and went out for pizza at the lavish new marina/resort a couple of miles away. By the time we got back all was well again and lamps burned brightly as homeowners enjoyed their heavily subsidised electricity. Time to reflect on our day. We had survived the arduous journey home and more importantly, there were no comebacks from our cafe lunch. A good day had by one and all. And we saw some camels too! 

Tomorrow, we resolved to have ourselves another adventure…

The day was hot and sunny and the beach looked an inviting place to spend our Friday afternoon. Sea, sand and some off-roading amongst the sand dunes and surf. A nearby beach had been researched so with map in hand we headed to Shell Beach, so called due to the abundance of pretty sea-shells and coral fragments that scatter the shore line.

Although not particularly exciting, in terms of adventure, we cut our teeth on some sand-driving. One or two mistakes but nothing noteworthy. This should hold us in good stead for our November adventure, three days across the vast and barren Wahiba desert. For the moment however, an enjoyable, leisurely afternoon collecting seashells and coral, then finding sand between our toes, in our clothes, on the car seats, in our sandwiches, all over the car mats, in the footwells, on the side steps, in the glove box, on the dash, Arghhh!

No, they weren’t standing there when I drove down the beach! (car safe and sound though, right/rear of picture).

Next weekend is Eid al-Adha. The feast of sacrifice. Sounds good to us! It is at this time that an animal will be slaughtered to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Sure thing, still sounds good to us! The exact holiday time is unknown as it all depends on the visibility of the lunar crescent (which we saw last week). We are expecting at least seven days with which to head down to Salalah and hit the wadis, oasis, mountains, rivers and pools with all the enthusiasm we can muster. Along the way we will be wild camping in the great outdoors, just us, the goats, a few camels maybe, scorpions perhaps, spiders possibly, mosquitoes definitely and the excitement of not knowing what to expect next. Whatever comes our way we will deal with it and laugh about it later – we hope!

Not to make the same mistakes as last time, we are taking all the equipment we can fit in the car and taking proper precautions by informing you of where we are going and when we expect to be back. We are off to Salalah, down to the southern tip of Oman, just on the border with Yemen.  Approximately 3000 kilometres round trip with our daily excursions thrown in. We shall be gone for a week and hope (pray) to be back in time for school. That’s it! Wish us well…

Finally, as you have come to expect, a lovely picture to finish off with:

Cheers!

Insha’Allah

Shopping

Standard

Things have settled down nicely after the ‘near miss’ of our Wadi-bashing adventure last week. We  laugh about it now of course; telling tales of derring-do and close shaves with crumbly, mountain passes. We survived to tell the tale so, naturally we went shopping.

Food shopping is never a barrel of laughs but shopping experiences in foreign parts often give rise to some unforeseen gem to delight and excite for one reason or another. The excruciating pain of the supermarket trudge was, in this instance, alleviated by such hypnotic wonders as these everyday, supermarket items:


All looks delightful doesn’t it? But then there is the dreaded hassle of cooking the stuff. Wouldn’t it be easier to bypass this whole torrid affair and pick up a ready meal or some frozen trash in a tray? NO! I had my eye on those good looking chaps centre right. That’s them, the one’s with the appealing blue hue and beaky mouths. Yep, Parrot Fish! Ordinarily I’d be paying good money to snorkel in azure blue seas and watch these beautiful fish go about their daily business but not today. Here I am eyeing them up for a tasty little supper treat. The shame of it all. Last week’s dinner, the Nile Perch, try to tempt me yet again with their pearly white flesh (a rubbery texture and a little tasteless to boot) but I was looking for new tastes, new experiences, a whole new culinary extravaganza.


Although these beauties were on special, I succumbed for the ever reliable and jolly tasteful, although a little bony, Red Sea Bream. Here they are, on my chopping board with knife at the ready and spices on standby…


Supper was duly served with a dash of lemon and a light salad on the side. What to do next…

Ah yes! Shopping. With a renewed sense of adventure, the horrors of last week’s expedition having fading into the dark recesses of our minds, we headed out to one of the famous Souks. In search of the densely packed, Pashmina stacked hotbed of tourist gems and tat that we had heard so much about we anticipated an authentic taste of old world Souk shopping and haggling. We were not disappointed…


Apologies for the ‘grainy’ shots but this was true covert work going on here. Some of the locals take exception to being photographed and to openly snap a trader’s wares without permission would inevitably have resulted in vociferous pleadings and wild gesticulating.

Clutching our souvenir Pashmina we headed for home,  stopping briefly at a  kebab stand where a mutton sandwich was hastily consumed. With all due expectation, it reappeared during that very night.

As always, a happy picture to finish off with…

Don’t have Nightmares…

Until the next time.

Insha’allah