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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. 

delicate flowers near Mario's flat

delicate flowers near Mario’s flat

beautiful delicacies

beautiful delicacies

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.

some Omani men who offer us bananas and oranges in Halhal, near Al Hijayr

some Omani men who offer us bananas and oranges in Halhal, near Al Hijayr

an amusing old man

an amusing old man

In Al Alya, we find some Yemeni-style traditional houses, with their ornate upper rounded windows and castellated balconies.

Traditional house in Al Alya

Traditional house in Al Alya

arched windows

arched windows

a view from the entrance

a view from the entrance

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.

Looking down Wadi Bani Kharous from Al Alya

Looking down Wadi Bani Kharous from Al Alya

We descend down some steps into the wadi, where we find some interesting plants, another traditional house, and a school bus.

flowers lining the steps into the wadi

flowers lining the steps into the wadi

another traditional house in Al Alya

another traditional house in Al Alya

School bus

School bus

pretty weeds in the wadi

pretty weeds in the wadi

the leaves of this spiked plant

the leaves of this spiked plant

more spiked balls

more spiked balls

the same weed, flowering

the same weed, flowering

terraces with date palms in Al Alya

terraces with date palms in Al Alya

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.

a mosque in Al Alya

a mosque in Al Alya

Some boys going out to play football

Some boys going out to play football

all dressed up and ready to play

all dressed up and ready to play

the mosque in Al Alya

the mosque in Al Alya

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.

another mosque amidst the date palms in Al Alya

another mosque amidst the date palms in Al Alya

the picturesque mosque

the picturesque mosque

the mosque in the wadi

the mosque in the wadi

the mosque

the mosque

the minaret

the minaret

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.

plantations

plantations

plantations up the hill from the mosque

plantations up the hill from the mosque

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.

the Omani photographer/farmer, me and Mario, sharing apples, dates and coffee

the Omani photographer/farmer, me and Mario, sharing apples, dates and coffee

As we leave, we see this plant right next to the porch, punctuated with some bright red leaves.

colorful leaves outside the kind Omani's house

colorful leaves outside the kind Omani’s house

Back down in the wadi, we come across this flowering weed, a lone plant among the rocks.

another lone spiked ball

another lone spiked ball

parting view of the mosque, mountains and date palms

parting view of the mosque, mountains and date palms

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.

sun shining from behind mountains and clouds

sun shining from behind mountains and clouds

As we drive back out, we stop to take pictures of some terraced fields and pretty houses in the waning sunlight.

terraces and houses

terraces and houses

a picturesque setting

a picturesque setting

Wadi Bani Kharous

Wadi Bani Kharous

houses and terraces in Wadi Bani Kharous

houses and terraces in Wadi Bani Kharous

Wadi Bani Kharous

Wadi Bani Kharous

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.

Pakistani "SPCIY" RESTAURANT

Pakistan “SPCIY” Village RESTAURANT

Salad with lime juice

Salad with lime juice

Pakistani chicken with delicious sauce

Pakistani chicken with delicious sauce

the waiter at the restaurant

the waiter at the restaurant

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.

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