Monday, May 28: Today, I have my flat exterminated for bed bugs! I actually only saw one, I think, and haven’t really suffered bites, I don’t think… (I’m actually kind of oblivious to this kind of thing). However, my upstairs neighbor David has them and because we’ve heard these pests can multiply and occupy entire apartment buildings, I opt to have my flat treated too. The exterminator is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 a.m., at which time we will need to vacate our flats and stay out for about 8 hours. I figure that will work out well as I can just go to work all day.
However. We get a call postponing the appointment to 11:00, insha’allah. By the time the fumigator squad arrives at 11:30, they inform us that it will take 2 hours for each flat and they will do David’s first. So I run to work to enter marks, the only real work requirement today, and then return home to have my flat treated at around 1:00.
By the time they finish, there is really no point in going back to work. But. What will I do out of my flat for 8 hours?? It’s too hot to be outdoors exploring and walking around in 108 degree heat. Still. There must be something to do! Mario and I decide to take a little trip to Muscat, with the plan of stopping to explore Bidbid and Fanja on the way, and ending up at one of the nice hotels in Muscat to have a drink. One of my goals while in Oman is to visit each of the fancy hotels for a drink (I can’t eat at these hotels because they are too darn expensive!). We opt to aim for the Crowne Plaza at Qurum Beach.
We get on the road and take the exit for Bidbid, looking for what The Rough Guide to Oman bills as the “quaint fort (not open to the public).” We drive around and around the little village of Bidbid, frustrated by the lack of signs. We ask a couple of people along the way, who make hand motions telling us to turn right at the school.
Sometimes getting lost leads you to surprising little treasures. We come across some farms, planted with various crops including some kind of fodder for goats, lime and lemon trees, eggplant, corn, and sorghum, among other things. There are several Bangladeshis working diligently in the fields, cutting the goat fodder plants, which have lovely purple flowers on them. It’s quite idyllic and lovely. The Bangladeshi workers seem quite pleased to see some foreigners wander into their fields with cameras in hand.
The farms are laid out nicely in grids, with square patches of the delicate purple flowers against a backdrop of date palms and brown mountains. I love finding these little paradise-like places in Oman. There is so much brown and desert here, that when I find an area of greenery, I want to drink it up like a bee does nectar. Despite the temperature being about 43 degrees Celsius (110 F), we walk around in the fields, stopping to admire the hard work of the Bangladeshis and to take their pictures.
Everywhere are piles of colorful old clothes, which are used to re-route the water in the irrigation ditches. Butterflies and birds abound. Cicadas are trilling in high-pitched desperation. Sweat is pouring off of us, but what is there to do? We let it drip. We walk and take pictures and enjoy the hot, but fresh, air.
One Bangladeshi boy beckons us to follow him. He keeps saying “I farm!” and he waves us. “I farm! I farm!” Of course it’s not his farm; it would have to be an Omani’s farm and he is the laborer. He tends the farm. He leads us back to his part of the farm, punctuated with lime trees and eggplant and sorghum. Further back he has some goats and sheep and chickens in a pen. He loves letting us take his picture. It’s obvious he’s proud of his little corner of the world, a world he tends with utmost care.
We finally leave the farm and walk, drenched in sweat, back to the car, where we get in and turn on the air-conditioner full blast. Determined to find the fort, we continue on past the school. Finally we find it in the little village, with a large falaj running along one side of it. The village children are swimming in the falaj and look happy to be cooled by the water.
Now, here’s what The Rough Guide to Oman says about Bidbid Fort: “This is one of the prettiest small castles in the country: a rustic little structure, built with mudbrick walls on a stone base, with windows and rifle-slits cut lopsidedly out of the adobe, half-hearted little rounded battlements above and a large watchtower perched on a small rock outcrop beside. Unusually, the walls have been left unplastered following restoration, so you can see the pebbles and bits of straw mixed in to strengthen the mudbrick, adding to its rather homespun charm. A swiftly flowing falaj, in which villagers are wont to do their washing, runs around one side of the fort.”
Sounds lovely, right? Wrong! It COULD be lovely, but it isn’t because of the horrible surroundings. There is so much trash and squalor surrounding the fort, that I find it simply disgusting. I don’t understand why, if Oman is serious about tourism, the government doesn’t clean up these tourist sites. Education is key, but apparently there isn’t a will behind it. Everywhere I go in Oman, trash is strewn everywhere. Especially in the wadis, where people go on picnics and leave all their rubbish behind them, marking their trail like Hansel and Gretel. It’s only when I get way off the beaten path, deep into the wadis where the Omanis won’t venture on picnics, that you can find a pristine environment.
I don’t know why the government doesn’t create a huge campaign to stop littering. I remember we had this problem back in the USA in the 1970s. The government went on a huge anti-litter campaign, creating and enforcing laws. Public service announcements were rampant. As idealistic high school students, we jumped on the anti-litter bandwagon and never considered leaving a piece of garbage anywhere. I remember my friend Rosie was really determined to stop the litter problem. Many times as we drove down the roads in Virginia, we would see someone toss a piece of trash out his window. Rosie got so angry she would insist on following the person and yelling at them to stop littering!! I had to admire her enthusiasm and dedication to solving the problem.
Of course there are plenty of uneducated rednecks in the USA who still litter and live their lives surrounded by rubbish. It infuriates me to see this anywhere in the world. Oman is actually cleaner than most, though, so I do have to give the country some credit. Actually the countries I have found with the biggest rubbish problems are India, Vietnam and Egypt, in that order. But since Oman is trying to establish an upscale tourism infrastructure, it would behoove them to get this trash problem resolved.
Irritated by the trashy surrounds, we leave the fort and head to our next destination of Fanja, which is next door to Bidbid. I really hope Omanis start having some respect for their own country and become invested in cleaning up their rubbish.