We headed for Jabel Sham, the highest of Oman’s mountains, with one or two detours along the way. Jabreen Castle deserved a quick look before a picnic lunch under some trees outside. Castle, fort, stonghold – a bit like the souks really- seen one and you’ve seen them all! This particular castle is nicely preserved/restored however and comes top of our meagre list thus far. Well worth a visit if only to marvel at the usual lack of Health and Safety around the place.
Just one or two more photos to give you a flavour of what we saw there that day.
And one or two of the many antiquities that will satisfy the most tactile of visitors:
Lunch was hastily consumed and involuntarily shared with a multitude of blow-flies. If a hand wasn’t transporting food to your face, it was wafting away those most annoying of god’s little creatures. It was then onward to Al Hamra to see a ‘working’ Omani home and to experience life in a village built from mud, straw and anything else that was laying around at the time of construction.
At Bait Al Saffah, there was a little weaving, coffee bean roasting and bread baking to be seen and tried.
In fact, for bread making, the bread dough appeared to be just flour and water (we call it glue!) and this was lightly smeared onto a hot-plate to make a crispy type of pancake. Tasteless but filling, I am assured.
Whilst exploring the village, now deserted by almost all Omanis but slowly being re-inhabited by Indians, an impromptu photograph revealed an eerie appendage upon ‘processing’…
It was then onto the mountain roads to climb 2225 metres (7,300 feet in old money) to our hotel where we would watch the sunset, marvel at the night sky and sit around a camp fire feeling slightly nauseas with altitude sickness. We anticipated a few things and thought we had prepared for all eventualities. As usual, we were unprepared and the cold air beat us mercilessly until we were punch drunk with the chill and ready to hibernate until spring. It was windy. It was cold! Someone said that it was showing 5 degrees C on their car thermometer but with the wind chill we calculated that it was at least very, very cold. Not as cold as our winters of yesteryear but far too cold for bodies now acclimatised to temperatures of 25 degrees C. or more. With little more than the thinnest of nylon sheets and a nylon bedspread on our beds, we froze to the magical lights of static electricity that sparked and crackled in the pitch darkness, giving our bedtime antics a whole new meaning to being electric! The night was long and our toes froze, our noses ran and we vocalised our misery at every opportunity. On a more cheerful note, the portly chap in red did not disappoint and made a courtesy visit pre ‘the big day’ just to check on these particular good girls and boys.
After a hearty, festive meal of fish curry and tandoori chicken, we took the obligatory after dinner stroll to watch the sunset and reflect on the day – the last ever according to some predictions.
We gathered together for the last family photo of all time as we awaited the final curtain of a Mayan prediction.
Smile for the end of the world…
Oh well, so much for another ‘END OF THE WORLD’ prediction.
The very next day we set off at sunrise to explore the Grand Canyon of Arabia. An impressive sight that equals that of the famous American landmark. A journey through a village that time had forgotten, down some treacherous dusty tracks and following some precarious switchback mountain roads, we came upon the natural phenomena of this giant fissure in the earth’s crust. All this was heralded by the usual trinket sellers and their woven wares.
Old faithful, the camera that is and not the wife – guffaw! – was slowly giving up the ghost and with no more than a breath of power left in the old girl, one last picture to prove we were there.
We resolved to re-visit the area as we learned of a once hidden village at the base of the canyon. Recently discovered, it was only accessible by donkey or abseiling down a sheer side of the canyon. Upon discovery, the villagers quickly departed to spend their days elsewhere and the now abandoned village is of interest only to hikers and historians, tourists and the curious. Access involves a hike of some three to four hours to reach and return so it was impossible to make the trip on this occasion due to our little-legged traveller. The hike is dangerous; a crumbling mud path snakes its way along the side of the canyon wall and the return journey involves retracing those exact steps. Another time perhaps?
We headed for home and began to plan our festive adventure by the sea. Christmas day in a tent, by the sea, isolation, peace and quiet and a traditional Mackerel pasty for our lunch. I bet it doesn’t get any better than that? Or maybe…