Thursday, March 29: Tonight I go back to Al Musanaah, where I stay again in the little “chalets” at the Gulf Sand Hotel. Mario wants me to meet his long-time friend Elaine, from the Al Musanaah College of Technology. Elaine is quite a character, and talking to her makes me think that her college might be a good place to teach someday.
Elaine lives at the Millennium Resort Mussanah, in an apartment luxuriously decked out with modern & posh furniture. She didn’t come by this apartment easily; it costs her a pretty penny out of her salary each month!
Sadly, she is leaving the country for good in April, so it’s doubtful I will see her again. She’s been in Oman for over 4 years and plans to go to Australia and then back to work in Korea, training teachers, for three years.
She spent time teaching in Korea, as I did, through EPIK (English Program in Korea), in the public schools. We compare our experiences in Korea and you would think we had taught in two different countries. She loved it while I didn’t so much. There were times in Korea when I downright hated it, marking the days off in a thick pink marker. She loved the food, especially kimchi; I hated it. On the other hand, she hates Omani food, while I feel lukewarm about it.
She loved partying until all hours with the 20-some-year-olds in Korea, while I spent time traveling inside and outside the country and doing more quiet things, like writing my blog or reading or hanging out with a small group of friends. As a woman in Oman, Elaine doesn’t like the feeling of always being gawked at by men, while I don’t let it bother me; I’ve learned to just ignore it. It was all interesting conversation, comparing our various experiences, in different countries and in different universities. It really is too bad she’s leaving as she would be a fun person to get to know.
I enjoy myself immensely, sitting on the balcony off her apartment chatting and laughing away with her and Mario. A lovely evening….
Friday, March 30: On Friday morning, Mario and I get up before 8:00 and head to the little restaurant for omelets, chapati, salad, and fresh fruit juice (mango for me, orange for Mario).
We head for a hike to a place both of us have been before, Wekan. To get to Wekan, we must drive inland from Al Musanaah to Ar-Rustaq, past Al Awabi (where I went to the Omani wedding), and then on a dirt and gravel road for 25km through the Ghubrah Bowl, a huge, flat gravel plain, toward Wadi Mistal. We climb a mountain, basically the north side of Jebel Akhdar, in my GMC Terrain, toward the little village of Wekan.
At one point we lose our momentum, and suddenly the car won’t move up the steep incline. I press my pedal to the floor to no avail. The car won’t budge. I start to panic, thinking something is wrong with my car! That’s all I need! Mario tries to calm me down; we slowly back up to a flatter area and try again. This time we’re able to get up the incline, slowly but surely. In the little village of Wekan, we park the car and climb up the restored watchtower to get the lay of the land. We then begin our walk through the village.
The pathway to the village soon takes us to lush gardens of pomegranate, apricot, mango and walnut trees. Butterflies flutter about the white fuzzy flowers of green onions; there is a huge field of these spreading to the edge of the mountain.
The pomegranate trees have the most beautiful little red flowers, with a kind of hard shell on the outer bud and lush red petals inside the shell. The white bark of the walnut trees positively gleams in the sunlight. We can see tiny figs on the fig trees and small green fuzzy apricots and peaches.
Hundreds of grapevines already have tiny bunches of grapes on them. A falaj runs between the gardens. Near the bottom, the water flow has been blocked off, probably sent to one of the many side gardens. But about midway up the steps, the falaj flows rapidly down; the soothing sound of the running water makes for a relaxing ambiance in the gardens. I love this place. Both times I’ve been here, it feels like paradise.
Today is hot, as it is getting to be in Oman nowadays, but up here on the mountain there is a strong warm breeze, slightly cooling. It’s not uncomfortable. As we hike increasingly higher, we can look down and see the little village of Wekan below us, and far below that, the wide Wadi Mistal and the gravel road on which we came. We continue walking and, as both of us love to take photos, we take our sweet time trying to capture these moments of peaceful bliss.
I’ve committed to hosting a BBQ at my flat tonight, so sadly we must leave this place by 1:00. It takes a good 40 minutes to drive back over the gravel road and then I have another 2 1/2 hours back to Nizwa. Another time I will have to go back and do the longer hike all the way up to Jebel Akhdar.
This is truly one of my favorite places in Oman. I think I’ll have to go back in a month or two when all the trees are bursting with fruit! This little garden of Eden offers the closest thing to spring in Oman.