Thursday, April 11: Before leaving Mario’s house in Izki this morning, he shows me a flower he discovered growing against the wall of his building, which is located in a hot and dry environment. We both marvel that such a pretty & delicate plant is able to thrive in such a barren place.
We then go to Muscat, where we spend a couple of hours showing my car to some Omanis. This detour turns out to be a big waste of time. By the time we grab some lunch and arrive in Awabi on the Rustaq loop, it is well after one o’clock.
This wadi used to have a 26 km unpaved road back to the lovely town of Al Alya, but in the last several years, the road has been paved. It’s a smooth and well-constructed road, so it’s now an easy drive. We drive through Wadi Bani Kharous, flanked by the steep limestone cliffs of Jebel al Jaru to the east, Jebel al Akdhar to the southeast, and Jebel Al Hijayr to the north.
Wadi Bani Kharous is surprisingly developed, unlike most wadis in Oman, with a string of seven villages forming an almost continuous settlement, according to The Rough Guide to Oman. There are more than 4,000 people living in Wadi Bani Kharous, compared with less than 500 in Wadi al Hijayr, according to Oman Off-Road. This wadi is geologically important because of its range of rock formations spanning over 500 million years, from the Cretaceous period to the Late Proterozoic era, according to The Rough Guide to Oman.
On the way to Al Alya, the village of approximately 1,000 people at the end of the wadi, we take a detour off the main road to explore Al Hijayr. At the end of this road, in Halhal, we come upon some Omani men congregating for a social hour. They offer us some bananas and oranges. Some allow us to take their pictures. Only one among them can speak a little English, so we exchange a few words with him.
In Al Alya, we find some Yemeni-style traditional houses, with their ornate upper rounded windows and castellated balconies.
From the traditional houses, we can see a grand view of the mountains looking back from where we drove in. The wadi is especially pretty with its terraced plantations of date palms, grapevines, and mango, peach and almond trees.
We descend down some steps into the wadi, where we find some interesting plants, another traditional house, and a school bus.
We climb back out of the wadi and drive further down where we stop to take pictures of a pretty mosque. While there, three boys come out of their turquoise-gated house all dressed to play football.
As we turn around and head out of Al Alya, we stop to explore the wadi near a picturesque white mosque situated in the midst of some thriving date palms.
At the top of the hill above the mosque, we find a pretty little farm, but we don’t know for sure if we are welcome to explore too much, so we stay on the fringes and take some pictures.
When we come back down the hill, we meet an Omani man who speaks a few words of English. These farms are his and he’s pleased that we like them. He invites us to come to his house for coffee. We sit on the porch with his mother and sister and two cousins, who are all busy embroidering kumars, the traditional hats worn by Omani men. I’m surprised that the women don’t run into the house, especially since a foreign Western man is in their midst.
We eat apples and oranges and dates and drink some coffee. He looks through the pictures I’ve taken on my camera and then proceeds to show us some beautiful pictures he has taken using his phone. He is really a great photographer, with such a good eye. We can tell he’s quite pleased with his pictures, as he should be.
As we leave, we see this plant right next to the porch, punctuated with some bright red leaves.
Back down in the wadi, we come across this flowering weed, a lone plant among the rocks.
The sun is starting to set and as it falls low in the sky behind some clouds, it sends its last warming rays into the wadi.
As we drive back out, we stop to take pictures of some terraced fields and pretty houses in the waning sunlight.
We head then to Al Musanaah, where we have some dinner at a Pakistan “SPCIY” Village Restaurant. We have a laugh over the misspelling, which we can’t even pronounce. We eat a simple salad sprinkled with lime juice, some chicken with sauce and naan and paratha.
Finally, we check in at the little chalets at the Gulf Sand Hotel, where we have some trouble communicating with the receptionist who doesn’t speak a word of English. After we each check into our rooms, I join Mario for a little wine and conversation. We are both feeling really tired today because of the heat and humidity on the coast. I fall asleep easily in my ice-cold air-conditioned room.