Greetings from the Middle East!
There now, you wasn’t expecting that, was you? I do believe this is the very first time you have been greeted in English. Does this mean something, something prophetic maybe? Who knows – who cares – who knows who cares – who cares who knows! You get the drift?
In order to escape the blistering heat, topping 42 degrees regularly with a mild 37 degrees at night, we decided on the spur of the moment to head for the cooler air of the mountains. Only 142 kms away is the highest mountain range in Oman – Jebel Akhdar. We’ve been there before so we knew what to expect. To add some interest to our trip, we thought we would try to find the famous rose gardens of Oman, from the roses of which the even more famous rose water is produced. With the usual full tank of gas (110 litres at 15 pence a litre, a none too shabby£16 to fill up), a six pack of spring water, four packets of ready salted crisps and the portable DVD player, we ventured South-West to take the cool mountain air and sniff a dog-rose or two.
It wasn’t too long before we peaked at 3000 metres above sea level and sent forth the child, to the very, very edge, just to make sure it was safe for the rest of us. No, really, we sent the kid out to the very edge – Look!
Yup! That truly is a sheer drop downward, past the village perched on the ledge below, into oblivion and a jolly bumpy landing I would think. Once all was deemed to be safe and secure, we took a look for ourselves and marvelled at the view.
The village on the right has the terraced gardens where one would expect to find the roses. From where we stood, it looked as though the flowering season was well and truly over but we decided to take a closer look seeing how we had driven all that way and risked the life and limb of the kid to discover the darn place. We hopped into the battle-bus and drove a little way along some treacherous tracks. The village of Al Ain stood before us in all its ancient charm. In fact, ancient though it may be, it is still inhabited by a thriving, although somewhat insular, community. Were it not for the ‘Real Madrid’ woolly football hat being sported by a local youth, one could quite easily believe that a sharp bend in the space-time continuum had transported us back five hundred years or more. Traditionally built houses kept the sun out and the locals in.
We wandered round this charming village and happened across the famous fields of rose bushes which still had, to our delight, the very last blooms of the season. The scent was, well, negligible really but it was pretty to look at and worth the trek. There were pomegranate trees beginning to fruit, a fine walnut tree also in fruit and a view across the valley to die for (not literally, of course).
Talking of views to die for…The peak in the background is exactly where we stood earlier; right there on the outcrop. Amazing, eh?
The air was pleasantly cooler, some 25 degrees with a gentle breeze blowing for good measure. Now, it’s not like we’re tourists or even new in country, possibly a little bit bonkers but that’s by-the by. We should have known better for the sun beat down it’s nasty UV rays to redden our faces and even cause one of us to bear a striking resemblance to a Panda once he had removed his sunglasses. Not at all funny and we really should have known better. I mean, it’s nothing to risk our lives in precarious places and bizarre situations but to risk severe sun-burn, now that is just complete and utter madness. The eldest of the two females was lambasted for not applying sun-screen as well as failing to mention the strength of the sun’s rays or the possibility of shade giving head-wear. Indeed, publishing a photo of said sunburn would be downright hilarious but I will not grant you that pleasure. No Sir, not today. It might be alright to ridicule the subjects of this blog, but certainly not the author. The pain of second degree sunburn, the comical resemblance to a bamboo eating bear and the risk of that other problem that too much sun can cause, is all too much to endure. The last thing on my current wish list is ridicule. No, no, no, no, no!
We wandered and took in the sights and smells of the village. Goats immediately sprang to mind and they often sprang out on us too.
Pathways led this way and that, up to higher ground, on to other villages and then down, down, down to the terraced gardens of vegetables that support self-sufficiency as much as it can in the 21st century.
Having taken in our fill of scenery, we turned and headed for the nearest hotel and a well-earned lunch by the pool. You see, it’s not all derring-do in rough-tough adventureland. We often resort to the most civilised of activities.
After a satisfying fill of something savoury, we posed for an eager, young photographer and then pointed the car North-East as dark clouds began to form. After all, there was work the next day and all that ridicule to look forward to.