Thursday, January 3:  We arrive at Camp Al Areesh just in time for sunset.  Mike is driving the Terrain, and we make three attempts before we’re able to get up the steep hill into the camp.  The boys and I keep telling him to back up as far as possible and push the gas pedal to the floor.  Twice we only make it halfway. We are cheering and whooping, “Go, go, go!!! Woo-hoo!!”  The third time is a charm; however, after we check in, we get stuck again.  Abdullah, the young Bedouin in charge tonight, jumps in the car to take over.  He rocks the Terrain back and forth a bit in the fine sand until he bursts out of the hole we’ve dug and parks smoothly in front of barasti hut #9, a simple dwelling framed in local wood or imported Indian teak, and then filled in with palm fronds.

the Terrain at last in front of our barasti hut

the Terrain at last in front of our barasti hut

Right behind our hut is a steep dune, which we climb hurriedly so we can see the sun set from the top.  The dune is so steep and the sand so fine that it’s quite a feat to climb it.  We end up scurrying up on all fours.  I feel like one of those turtles that lays its eggs on the beach, digging with all its might to make a hole.  I climb a foot and slide back six inches.  I scramble up, until, breathless, I finally reach the peak.  We sit in the cool sand and watch the sun slide down over the horizon, painting the desert with a terra-cotta glow.

Click on any of the photos in the galleries below for a full-sized slide show.

We watch little children roll down the dune, gathering sand in a little storm around them.  Adam gets the idea to try it himself.  We run down while he rolls; then he climbs back up and does it again.  This time I capture him on video.

At the end of his tumble, his face is covered with sand.  He can barely open his eyes because he has sand in them.

Adam after his roll down the dunes

Adam after his roll down the dunes

Adam washes his face. We load our stuff into our hut, put on sweaters, and carry a bottle of wine and some beers out to some tables overlooking the desert.  There we get into a long conversation with a young Indian couple from “Bombay.”  He works in Muscat as an investment manager of a wealth fund for the Omani government.  He and his wife have been married only 4 months, but have known each other for 12 years, since college.  This is their first time to Camp Al Areesh.  We talk for quite a long time with them, until dinner is served at 7:30.

After dinner, the Bedouin singers begin their performance.  It’s quite a small crowd tonight and the music is mellow and repetitive.  Not many people are dancing, except a couple of Bedouins.  Three Georgian guys are huddled up together, heads on each others’ shoulders, under a giant colorful fuzzy blanket. We grab the blanket I purchased in Ibra from the car and Mike, Alex and I huddle up together under that.  The lanterns and the palm fronds on the roof gently sway to and fro in the breeze, having a hypnotic effect.  Alex and I drift off.

We’re all charmed and relaxed.  We don’t want to make the effort to get up and go to bed, but finally we do.   We cozy up under our fleecy blankets in our hut and have sweet dreams of endless sand and desert rhythms and golden sunsets.