Saturday, January 21: Though I bought a “4-person” tent, it seems pretty doggone crowded in that thing when we wake up in the morning. Of course we don’t have any cooking gear, so we pack up the tent and all our belongings and head to Mirbat to get some more of the yummy vegetable wraps we had last night. Sadly, the restaurant is not open, despite its sign on the door stating that it should be.
We decide first thing, in a unanimous decision, that we all want to go back to Nizwa today. We will see a few more things around Salalah, and then we’ll drive in one fell swoop back through the Empty Quarter.
We leave Mirbat and make at stop at the tomb of Mohammed Bin Ali, an Islamic scholar. It is actually a white mosque with twin onion domes built over a tomb.
This mosque, set in a huge cemetery, is quite dramatic in its brown and green setting, with tombstones all around it.
The boys want to go inside, but we can’t find any lights inside and even using our phones, we can’t see much of anything. We do however find a giant crab, alive and kicking, right inside the door of the mosque.
We drive back to Salalah proper because I want to go to the Museum of the Frankincense Land. There are a set of ruins, Al-Baleed, that belong to the 12th century port of Zafar. From this spot, frankincense was shipped across the sea to India in exchange for spices. The museum describes the area’s settlement since 2000 BC and displays the maritime history of the nation, including its current port projects at Salalah, Duqm (which should be the largest port in the Arab world) and Sohar. One of the most interesting things I find in the museum are pictures of places in Oman, such as Nizwa – current photos juxtaposed with old photos. It’s fascinating to see how undeveloped Oman used to be. It’s actually quite an impressive museum.
Outside of the museum are 3km of landscaped walking paths. It is really hot by the time we come out of the museum, so we don’t walk too much around the grounds.
On our way out of Salalah, we take numerous photos of all the plantations lining the roads. This is definitely where all the greenery is at this time of year. We will miss all the lush banana, papaya and coconut trees.
We tackle the long drive back through the Empty Quarter, making a stop halfway for lunch at the Al-Ghaftain Rest House, the same place where we spent the night on the way down. The place is quite crowded, with all men as always, and the owner tries to get us to sit in the small and cramped “family” room, probably to get me, as a woman, out of the company of the men. I am not happy about this and I say I do not want to sit in this room. I want to sit in the large, open room with the big windows, not in some cramped dark room as if I am some unsightly beast. It’s so irritating how men treat women in Oman. I’m a Westerner so I don’t get this kind of treatment all the time, thank goodness. When I do, I don’t like it one bit.
We continue our drive after this awkward lunch, arriving home around 9:00 pm to my flat in Nizwa. Home SWEET Home!!!