Thursday, March 15:  After I finish with my oral surgery on Thursday at about 3:00, I head out of Muscat and along the northern coast of Oman to Al Musanaah.  This town is a little past Barka, where I’ve turned inland numerous times to visit my friend Adil in Al Awabi.  There isn’t much in the guidebooks about Al Musanaah, but my friend and colleague Mario, who used to live there, has been talking up the town to me for some time.  He stays in some cool chalets there for 15 OMR/night (cheap for Oman!).  He loves to explore the beach, picking up seashells and enjoying the various sea critters that wash up on the shore.  He loves to take photos of nature; he has quite a good eye from what I’ve observed of his photos on Facebook and hanging in his office.  With all his talk about the place, and his obvious enchantment with it, I felt drawn to visit myself.

The Gulf Sand Hotel ~ little chalets in Al Musanaah

The Gulf Sand Hotel ~ little chalets in Al Musanaah

I know that Mario is heading to Al Musanaah this weekend, as he does many weekends, and I figure I might run into him, but then again, I might not.  However, I am pleasantly surprised when he texts me during my wait at the oral surgeon to see if I am still coming to the town.  He says he has some friends he will meet this evening at the beach and he wonders if I might like to come along.  Since I still don’t know the outcome of the oral surgery and how I will feel afterward, I’m not sure if I will be able to make it.  But once the ordeal is over, Mario’s invitation to escape sounds like heaven!

the little "chalets" at the hotel

the little “chalets” at the hotel

my little room at the chalet

I arrive and check into the #10 chalet at the Gulf Sand Hotel.  At this time, Mario meets me at the hotel and invites me to sit on his little patio and drink a glass of wine.  He pours us each a glass, and we sit outside on the pleasant little grounds and talk about our love of hiking, of nature, of travel, of great literature.  Mario mentions his love for Milan Kundera’s philosophical novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I have never read despite the fact that I was an English major. We talk of the great Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez and his One Hundred Years of Solitude (which Mario fell in love with after multiple readings and which I have never learned to love) and Love in the Time of Cholera (which I was enraptured with).  It’s lovely to talk about books and photography and travel, far removed from the university and its politics and issues.  An excellent escape!

the grounds of the little hotel

After we share a bottle of wine, we drive to Al Sawadi where Mario’s friends have set up camp on the beach.  There are two young married couples with little children and some random other unattached friends, one of whom happens to be a young lady named Julie.  She keeps saying, “I think I’ve met you before, but I don’t know where.”  We try to figure out where; it’s only later when I mention my two sons came to visit in January that she puts two and two together and remembers she met all of us at Ghazal Pub at the Intercontinental during our dance frenzy night.

already Al Musanaah beach at 8 a.m. is sweltering

This group of Mario’s friends used to teach with him at Sur College of Technology.  They’re a fun-loving group and we have a fun time hanging out.  They make a feast of chicken kebabs and salad and veggies.  We all sit around the fire and compare Oman stories; it’s interesting to get other westerner’s opinions about the culture.

seashells by the seashore
If you are squeamish
Don’t prod the beach rubble ~ Sappho

At around 11:30, my mouth is getting quite sore as the Novocaine is wearing off, so I ask Mario if he would mind if we left (since we drove in one car).  Julie expresses her worry that the party is going to go on all night and she won’t be able to sleep.  I don’t know why, but I offer to let her stay in my chalet, as I have an extra twin bed in there.  It turns out that she has a hard time sleeping in my room because of a fan mounted on the wall.  The fan is entirely necessary because the air conditioner isn’t working, but I find her in the middle of the night, shining the torch on her phone, trying to turn it off: “It’s too noisy! I can’t sleep.”  I say, “Wow!  You’re really sensitive, aren’t you?”  Later she says, “Is that music I hear outside?”  I can barely hear anything, and at this point I am starting to regret inviting her to stay with me!!

al musanaah beach

Friday, March 16: In the morning, I have to scrape Julie out of her bed (I guess she was finally able to sleep despite all the noise!) to take her back to the camp with her friends. I want to get an early start because it is now getting hot outside first thing in the morning and I want to walk on the beach without melting.  I drive her to back to Al Sawadi where I plan to walk, but with all the rubbish on the beach and the unsightly and troubled “Blue City” at one end of the beach, it’s doubtful the walk will be pleasant.  I opt to go elsewhere.

fishing boats on al musanaah

So I drive back to the Millennium Resort Mussanah, a brand new resort and marina sitting on a fine stretch of coast, where I park my car.  There I take a long stroll on the beach, picking up seashells and photographing the sea, the sand and the shells.

colorful painted shells

At the far end of the beach, I find a line of blue fishing boats and some fishermen pulling in their catch from the morning.  I ask one of the fishermen if I can take his picture, and he sticks a sardine in his teeth and poses!  So cute.

a fisherman chews on a sardine

The boys running around on the beach keep alternately doing cartwheels and posing with little fish in their hands.

a group of fun-loving boys from the village

One boy’s grandfather shows me a handful of his small fish.  It’s all great fun.

one boy’s grandfather and his catch of the day

the fisherman haul in the nets

Later I go to Mario’s recommended breakfast place, Janain Al Wushail Trading Restaurant and Coffeeshop, where I order an omelet, fresh mango juice, coffee and chapati.  One of the Indian cooks comes and sits at my table while I eat and looks through my Oman Off-Roadbook.  He asks me where I am going. At that moment I think I might go to Ar-Rustaq, so I say that.  I tell him I live in Nizwa. He says, “When are you coming back?” I say, I don’t know, possibly in April.  He says, “Come back here, please.”

a good place for an omelet

I then mosey into the town of Al Musanaah to check out the fort by the seaside.  This fort is built almost entirely of stone, rather than mudbrick, with bands of roughly cut rocks held together with layers of pebble-encrusted mud. The gate to the fort is closed; I’m not sure if it’s closed because it’s a Friday or because the fort is being restored.

al musanaah fort

I take some pictures and then continue on my merry way back to Muscat, where I drop in to Qurum City Center for a totally unnecessary and uncalled-for shopping spree.  Later still, I return home to Nizwa with a stitched-up hole in my mouth and some empty pockets!

one wall of musanaah fort