At last! We’ve seen Oman. We’ve been to the northern tip, as far south as you can get (to the Yemeni border), to the coast on the eastern edge and into the Empty Quarter desert that borders with Saudi Arabia. We’ve traversed mountains and wadis, deserts and moonscape plains, villages where time has stood still, cities still in the making, dusty tracks, no tracks and fabulous highways. We’ve detoured to neighbouring countries, camped, glamped, hotelled and helltelled our way around.
Finally, we made it to Musandam, the northern peninsula that is separated from mainland Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Musandam is known, locally, as the ‘fjords of Oman’. Not having seen the Norwegian fjords as yet so therefore relying on family members who live there to tell us otherwise, we don’t think there is too much resemblance to any Scandinavian fjords.
Admittedly, it is very picturesque and the route in follows the contours of the coast line where a road has literally been blasted from the sheer rock face that looms high above; but fjords? I’m not so sure…
We headed to a secluded beach, having already stopped for a brew on a beach where the downside of the area is the crude oil that lies just beneath the sandy surface, ready to stick to your feet and anything else that it comes into contact with it.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy shipping lane for oil tankers so either by accident or purpose, leakage ends up on what should be a pristine beach. The sea is crystal clear and the colours are amazing, turquoise, blue and green, all so much prettier seen through polarising lenses or rose-tinted glasses.
You can see the road as it carves its way across the edge of the rock face and marvel at the beautiful ocean that was so inviting but not so much that we wanted to risk getting covered in half a barrel of oil.
The plan was, we would visit the beach and then stay overnight, take the day to drive to the Acacia forest, camp again and then return home. We counted on driving for several hours to get to the Acacia forest so a day would be long enough. The beach, we reckoned, was half a day’s drive away so we headed east. After some ten minutes of driving, we happened across what looked suspiciously like…the Acacia forest. A quick check of the map showed that the peninsula is only about 25 kms across. The Acacia forest was full of goats so camping would be a job of avoiding the stuff that flies love so much and, of course, avoiding the flies. We doubled back and made for the beach. A few minutes later, we saw the winding track that led down to a seemingly, very idyllic beach.
Sadly, having negotiated the dirt track to the end, the beach was, in fact, mud and stones, it had been invaded by goats, it was littered with rubbish and it didn’t have an awful lot going for it. The sad demise of what was once, or could still be, a stunning hide-away cove. We had a brew and considered our options. We had driven for five hours, left Oman, entered the UAE, left the UAE and entered Oman once again to find there was nowhere suitable to camp and not an awful lot to see or do.
As we gazed across the narrow stretch of water to spy the Iranian coastline in the hazy distance, we decided to go to the zoo. In Abu Dhabi.
Having once more left Oman and re-entered the UAE, we arrived in Abu Dhabi some six hours later. A long drive admittedly but we’re used to that now. We booked in to the most fantastic Premier Inn and sat in their restaurant for a bite to eat. Just like all our Easter wishes coming true at once, we discovered they served alcohol and duly entertained ourselves with a glass or four of red wine. After a stonking night’s sleep – guaranteed apparently, or your money back! – we went to the zoo.
Abu Dhabi zoo, we thought, would be very nice and indeed it was. It was also very surprising. We are now used to the lack of any Health and Safety, as previously reported, so we are no longer shocked at what we find. There were many notices around the zoo which simply stated that if you were stupid enough to stick your fingers into an animal’s mouth and the animal bit them off, then it’s your own fault. Basically, we were in a petting zoo where you could catch, touch, batter, cuddle, kiss and cajole most, if not all the non-predatory animals on display. Having been used to zoos where the animals are kept at a very safe distance, where a ditch and two wire fences separate you from the creatures, not to mention the wooden rail fence for aesthetic purposes; it is quite a surprise to suddenly be up close and personal with the animals.
Giraffes, zebras, camels, monkeys, deer, and a whole host of other furry creatures were there for your touching pleasure. We amused ourselves for hours and if we were stupid enough to put our child in harms way and she got eaten, then it would be our own fault – wouldn’t it?
Don’t panic! It was all safe(ish). It was hardly likely that our final demise would be a jolly good tonguing from the tall fella.
So that was us at the zoo. We did pretty much the same with the other animals, getting precariously close and risking our fingers, not to mention the child. We like the giraffes best so we share these pictures with you. You can just see a zebra behind the giraffe, through it’s legs. There was a mix of animals in most enclosures. The bears looked sad and the big cats paced with frustration. The giraffes were happy so we went back for more petting and panicking.
We drove around Abu Dhabi and wondered at the amazing architecture. A perfectly round office block, shaped like a dinner plate but convex, caught our attention. Many tall buildings appeared to defy gravity and whilst they may not have been as tall as those in Dubai, they were all pretty spectacular. Having done all that we have on our trips, we wonder whether we have become complacent, because we forgot to take any pictures of Abu Dhabi. Maybe the fine wine of the previous evening was having a forgetful effect on us. A stunning city with loads and loads to see and do, we expect to return very soon so will endeavour to get some snaps then.
Abu Dhabi is more cosmopolitan than we are used to. There are bars and clubs, top shows (if you like Lional Ritchie), attractions, water parks, amusement parks, shopping malls by the dozen, architecture, open spaces and, of course, the desert. So we decided to stay for a celebration. Of all the top places to dine, including the seven star Palace Hotel, we chose our favourite place of the moment and had a sumptuous meal with some splendid French wine, all for the price of pint at home, in our Premier Inn hotel. If you ever go, you will not do much better than this fantastic place to stay and eat. We highly recommend it and we’ve been around a bit. Cheers and,
We decided to stay an extra night to enjoy the rest before heading back into Oman. As is now customary, we stopped along the way for a brew on a road that was more of a beat-up track than the beaten track. Good old Oman. It was good to be home again.
So, where do we go from here?
There is not too much more that we can think of to do. Our next adventure will take us overseas but, as yet, we cannot say where. We are about to embark on a period of graft where work and domestic issues must take precedence. We may be inclined to visit friends and family this summer – or we may not. Between now and then, we have an awful lot to do but this will give us time to plan. In the interim, we will no doubt return to some of our favourite spots, camping on the mountain, luxuriating on a local beach, eating out at our favourite Indian cafe.
However, if it sounds like there is nothing new to be done then we have misled you.
We now have provisional plans for the Indian sub-continent, hidden islands in the Indian Ocean, the Far East and possibly even further afield.
But, until then, it’s nose to the grindstone.