Sunday, May 26: Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is Pathways. I’ve seen many beautiful pathways in my travels around the world.
Thursday, January 3: Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the greenest wadis in Oman. It’s dotted with pools, villages and plantations, and Omanis consider it one of the most popular spots in the country for swimming and picnicking. Today, there are hordes of people, as it is a perfect January weekend.
Click on pictures in any of the galleries below for a full-sized slide show.
We walk into the wadi, where early on we come upon groups of people swimming in the pools and jumping off cliffs into the pools. Of course, Adam immediately wants to jump, but he decides to head further back into the wadi where it might be less crowded.
We come to a spot in the stream where we need to take off our shoes to cross, so the boys both take off their shirts and shoes, and slide down a waterfall into a pool. They come out downriver, where they climb out and slide down the waterfall again.
We head back up the river, and atop a cliff, some Omani boys, along with some tourists, are jumping off into the pools below. Adam soon follows suit, as does Alex. They do this numerous time, loving each jump more than the one before.
After all this cliff jumping and swimming, we head out of the wadi at around 4:30. Our hope is to get to Camp Al Areesh by shortly after 5:00. We want to get there in time to see the sun set over the desert of Sharqiya Sands.
Friday, July 6: The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is movement. How do you show movement in your photos? This photo choice is a very deliberate show of movement through the camera lens and the blurring lights, but how else can you show movement of objects, or of the action that’s happening in your picture?
Share a picture that means MOVEMENT to you!
And here is an Omani boy doing a cart-wheel off a rock in Wadi Bani Khalid.
And another boy leaps off the rocks at Wadi Bani Khalid.
Friday, June 8: Friendship. There are so many ways to show friendship and to see it in others. Share a picture about FRIENDSHIP with everyone!
This picture shows the easygoing fellowship of boys in Oman. Since the sexes are always separated, the boys go out exploring Oman with their friends. This is common everywhere outdoors. I rarely see a woman walking about in nature in Oman, and if I do, she is usually wearing the abaya and scarf. She is always accompanied by her husband or family. The women rarely have the freedom to go out swimming and hiking in a wadi, like these boys do. I met these guys in Wadi Bani Khalid over the National Holiday last November, and the young man with the striped shirt in the forefront, Adil, is the one who invited me to his brother’s wedding in Al Awabi. He felt very sorry for me because I was traveling alone and no matter what I said, I couldn’t convince him that I enjoyed doing so!
Thursday, February 23: I am now officially hooked on the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. After looking through lots of entries in this ongoing challenge, I’ve happened upon some amazing blogs. One of my favorites is called Life in the Bogs by a talented photographer in Ohio named Robin. I am so mesmerized that now I read her blog every morning along with my coffee! Today, I found through her blog a photo challenge by someone named Karma: Karma’s When I Feel Like it Blog: February Photo Hunt. Since I have hundreds of photos from my travels, and I also went on a hike Thursday on Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) in Oman, I decided to try to find, or take, some pictures that match her prompts. Karma’s challenge words and my photos follow.
Because Oman is a desert country, with little water, the few trees you see often look like they’re dying, or struggling to keep themselves together. I found this one Thursday on Jebel Akdar (Green Mountain), with its bark flaking off.
For bow, I’m going with the definition of “a bend or curve.” This is a pond at the Ho Chi Minh complex in Hanoi. I love the bow of this large balcony over the pond.
For this one, I looked for the closest thing I could find to a mug shot, and this is the best I could do!
I love how everything in Japan is so neat and orderly. I could have chosen so many pictures for row from Japan, I had a hard time deciding which one to use. I love the colors and the Japanese characters on these wooden fortunes. These are all over temples in Japan, but since I don’t read Japanese, I’m only assuming they’re either fortunes or wishes. I really would love to know what they actually are!
Here’s the definition of bun I found: any of a wide variety of variously shaped bread rolls, usually leavened and slightly sweetened or plain, sometimes containing spices, dried currants, etc. Ok, admittedly, dumplings are not exactly buns, but this is the closest thing I could find. They are a type of bread, right? Anyway, I make mine with Bisquick, which one also uses to make buns. A close cousin?
6) heart shapes (for the month of valentines)
Beautiful heart-shaped leaves in Daegu, South Korea. I love the color and texture of these. I feel like they can’t decide whether they’re dead or alive, or whether it’s spring or fall.
Bonus word: leap (to celebrate leap year)
This is at one of the many wadis in Oman, specifically Wadi Bani Khalid. It’s always hot in Oman, so these pools are really refreshing. This Omani boy leaps in for a swim at one of the many pools. Ahhh, sweet relief.
Happy LEAP YEAR!!
Friday, January 27: This morning the boys and I leave Camp Al Areesh and head directly for Wadi Bani Khalid. This is one of the greenest and most scenic wadis in Oman. It has great swimming holes and picnic areas, so Omani families love to flock here on weekends. I came here last on the National Holiday in late November, and it was packed! This weekend, we’re lucky in that there aren’t many people. We get to enjoy it in relative solitude.
I think the boys are getting a little homesick and are feeling tired of all our exploring. They say, though they like it here, that all the wadis are starting to look alike. One of my colleagues who has been in Oman for about 5 years has told me the same thing; eventually all the wadis start to look alike. I felt this way in Korea about the Buddhist temples. Once you’d seen one, you’d seen them all. Though this is a beautiful wadi, and I was thrilled to see it the first time around, this time we’re all a little bored by it. Or maybe we’re just weary from all our travels.
We walk to the right of a series of large swimming pools and follow a rough boulder-strewn path for about 20 minutes to the deep part of the wadi. At some point along the way, an Omani boy starts tagging along with us. He can’t speak much English so he just walks in silence.
We end up at the Muqal Cave, which has a horizontal slit for an opening, sort of like a person’s mouth. There is no way I will go into this cave, but the Omani boy encourages the boys to go inside. None of them have flashlights. I know the Omanis know all the ins and outs of their country, so I don’t worry they will get lost. They all three duck into the mouth of the cave and don’t return for quite some time. At one point I start to imagine the worst and I yell into the cave, only to be answered by dead silence. I worry, I fret. Then I hear voices and before I know it they are all ducking and coming out of the cave. Apparently there is a large chamber inside, but they couldn’t really see anything because they didn’t have flashlights. Hmmm.
We make our way back out of the wadi and since the boys are getting warm, they decide to take a dip in some of the pools. They are surprised to find the pools are quite warm. Apparently there are two sources of the water. One source is from the Muqal Cave and is warm, the other water comes from the mountain and is cool. They have fun splashing about and jumping in the water until Adam has a strange encounter where one Omani boy, a different one who joins us along the way, tries to pull Adam down to sit on his lap under a waterfall!! Adam gets pretty darn peeved about this, pushes himself away and then high-tails it out of that pool. The boy vanishes as quickly as he appeared.
We decide we’ve had enough swimming and traveling. We grab some lunch and fruit juice at the little restaurant near the entrance to the wadi and then head back to the car. The boys want to return to my flat in Nizwa, which they like very much for a home away from home.
We drive the long way back, nearly 3 hours, with only one stop. When we arrive in Nizwa, we eat a yummy dinner at the Spicy Village and then take a long walk together under the Nizwa stars.
This is our next to the last weekend together and I have to return to work tomorrow. I hope they’ll enjoy their last week hanging around in my flat and taking it easy before they head back to the USA on February 3.
Saturday, November 26: From Al Areesh, I continue my road trip heading down the 23 road to Sur. I’m on the lookout for a place my colleagues told me about, Wadi Bani Khalid, just north of the town of Al-Kamil. It’s about 203 km away from Muscat.
I come across the sign for the wadi, where I turn to the north and start my climb high into the Eastern Hajar Mountains. I zigzag and chug uphill through some colorful rock formations, green with copper oxide and rust-red with iron ore. Wadi Bani Khalid is a series of plantations and villages that lie close to the floor of the wadi. From the upper reaches of the wadi, a natural spring flows year round, nourishing the vegetation that makes this spot so lovely. Most people who visit this spot head for the source of this water, which collects in a series of deep pools in the narrow end of the boulder-strewn wadi.
For people who don’t know what a wadi is, here’s a description from the Sultanate’s Ministry of Information: A wadi is a dried up riverbed found in the mountain valleys. Wadis come into their own after heavy rains, when the rivers start running again and the vegetation is restored. However, some wadis have year-round running water, with deep, cool pools in which it is quite safe to swim if the currents are slow. Wadis are green, lush oases of palm trees, grasses, and flowering shrubs. On the whole, wadis are only accessible with a four-wheel drive vehicle, as the terrain can be extremely bumpy. (Wadis of Oman)
I see a sign for tourist information before I get to the entrance to the wadi, so I turn off the winding road to see what it’s all about. Another car follows me into the turn-off. The tourist information is just a shut-down building, so I do a U-turn. The car that has followed me is full of about 6 young Omani men. One of them speaks English and asks where I’m going. I tell him. He says, “Follow me. This place (the tourist information) is closed.”
So I follow him into the wadi where there is a too small and overcrowded parking lot. We park alongside each other and he introduces himself as Adil. He tells me he’s from a town called Rustaq, about 175 km SW of Muscat, and he’s a high school teacher there, teaching computer technology. He’s married and has three children and is 30 years old. He invites me to come along with him and his friends. I love how Omanis just take you under their wings, just like that, without any hesitation!
We walk along a falaj, which is a water channel that collects water for irrigation purposes. This type is a Ghaily falaj, dug close to the ground surface and a normally open channel. At the end of the falaj is a lovely green pool surrounded by lush tropical plants and palm trees. Hordes of Omanis are here today because not only is it the National Holiday but also the Islamic New Year. It’s strange that there are mostly groups of young men hanging out together, away from their wives and families. There are also families here. Some of the men wear dishdasha, but many are wearing shorts and t-shirts. All the Omani women are covered, as usual, in their black abayas and headscarves. No break for them even on holiday.
I ask Adil about his wife. Why is she not here with him? He says he’s on a holiday with his friends. His wife is at home with their children, their parents, the whole family who shares a house together. Besides, he says, it’s hard for Omani women. I can see that. They have to remain covered even when they’re at a place where all the men and boys are swimming to their heart’s content.
Adil and his friends, all of whom are under 20, tell me to follow them up a path through the narrowing the gorge. He tells me I should go swimming, but I don’t know how I would change into my bathing suit. He tells me it’s okay, I can hide behind a rock to change, or he and his friends will hold up a towel in front of me. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with that. The deep green and blue pools along the path do look inviting though. Sometime, if I come with another Westerner, I will swim here. Possibly when my son comes to visit in January.
As we climb along boulders and rocks, Adil takes good care of me, making sure I’m okay and that I’m enjoying. At one point the whole group of us sit on a kind of small cliff overlooking a pool and they pull out a bunch of egg burritos. They offer me one for breakfast. I sit with them on the rocks in easy companionship and eat my burrito. They give me some water as well. I feel totally comfortable with them, as if I am one of them, but of course I’m not. I will always be an outsider here. But they all do their best to make me feel welcome.
We continue our walk up the narrow gorge, scrambling over boulders, squeezing down narrow crevasses. I take off my shoes twice to ford the stream. Adil asks me about myself, wonders why I am traveling alone. I tell him I like to travel alone, I actually prefer it. I had plans originally with two women from another college, but the plans were cancelled and I wasn’t going to just sit home because I didn’t have anyone to travel with. He feels sorry for me, I can tell. But he doesn’t understand that Western women are very independent and don’t mind doing things alone. We are nothing close to the cloistered and powerless Omani women. We are anomalies Omanis will never understand.
Actually, I love to travel alone just for this reason: I meet many interesting people along the way that I would never meet if I was in a group or even with another companion. I love this aspect of my travels and I don’t want to ever give that up. I wouldn’t have met Adil today if I were with even one single other friend. When I’m alone, people will approach me; when I’m with anyone else, the locals don’t approach. This is pure and simple and true.
Adil suggests that I come with him and his friends for their whole 3-day trip. I thank him for his offer, but I have plans to go to Sur and Ras Al Hadd and then to explore more of Oman. He’s disappointed I won’t consider coming. He says he wants to invite me to his home sometime to meet his family. I tell him I would love that. I’ve never yet been invited to an Omani home and I look forward to seeing the inside of Omani family life.
We continue on to the deepest part of the wadi. On the way back, we stop at several swimming spots along the way and Adil’s friends jump off of rocks into the swimming holes. I do wish I could swim here. Next time, for sure, but I’ll have to be with another Westerner to do it. As a woman, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable swimming with gangs of Omani young men!
We take our time walking back along the same path we came in on. We get back to the area where there’s a wide open green pool surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation. There I find a public toilet and a coffee shop. I sit at the outdoor cafe and drink some coffee and watch a group of black Omanis playing wild music in a pavilion. When I was at Al Areesh last night, the British guy John I met told me there are three kinds of Omanis. There are the pure Omanis and then there are the Omanis that come from Zanzibar, the darker skinned ones. Finally, there is the old slave stock. I don’t know if he’s totally right about this categorization, but here it is anyway.
Soon, I part ways with Adil and his friends, after exchanging telephone numbers. Adil says anytime I want to go anywhere in Oman, call him and he will take me. I don’t know if he means for me to hire him as a guide or if he’s just offering out of the kindness of his heart. Somehow I think he wants to be paid for this; I’m sure as an Omani high school teacher with a big family to support, he could use the money.
Fast forward to the evening of Tuesday, November 29. I get a text from Adil: ‘Good evening. How r u? If you have free time come to my home to have lunch in thursday.” I’m disappointed that he asks for this Thursday because I already have plans. I write him back: “ah adil u are so kind! i would love to come but i have a visitor from italy coming tomorrow for one week. maybe u might invite me again after my guest leaves?? i hope…”
Time will tell. I really hope he does invite me again.