Guided Tour of the Dhofar Region

Yesterday, we had arranged for a guided tour of the area. Peter, from a neighboring boat in the anchorage, joined us. Our tour guide, Saleem, picked us up at 0830. The first stop was a small building in the heart of town, near to the souq we had gone to a few days before. The signs were all in Arabic, so we couldn’t read the full story of the significance of the place, but our guide said it is a holy site where a miracle occurred involving a prophet of God and a camel. We were a little surprised to walk in and find that the building encircled a slab of dirt. The dirt supposedly still carries the marks made during the miracle, and it takes a little concentration to see the marks in the soil. Once upon a time people were allowed to walk on the soil and go into a cave that you can’t see in the photo, but now it is closed off to the public.

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Stop two was the gun market. It turned out to be about 30 men sitting along the side of a bank building on a corner across the street from the souq. Most of the men are villagers. Some of the villagers wore turbans that had some material hanging down in back to cover their necks, and a couple of the older village men had on a long skirt and no shirt or head cover. Everyone there was holding a small rifle. There were a few vendors selling rifles, but there were also vendors selling camel skins, hand made knives in beautiful sheaths (pictured below), jewelry, leather goods, and other assorted handicrafts. There was even a guy there selling fruit. One guy came up to us and showed off how well crafted his knives are, encouraging us to touch the blade and point. The guide told us that most days there was a bigger selection of guns. Non-automatic guns are perfectly legal in Oman and do not require any kind of registration. However, it is illegal to shoot a gun in the city, only outside of town. The guide explained to us that guns are an important prop in the cultural dances.

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Stop three was the castle/fort in the village of Taquah, Continue reading Guided Tour of the Dhofar Region

Fueling Up and Omani Foods

Our fuel appointment was scheduled for noon, so we decided to go out for breakfast. The closest restaurant is the Oasis Club, which turned out to not open until noon. The next closest restaurant is Taj Al Meena, about 5 kilometers away, and it was open. There is an open seating area in the middle, and along one of walls there was a head high partition with a series of small doorways covered with a curtain. We were quickly whisked into one of the little partitioned rooms. This one had tables and chairs. We have found out that in “family” restaurants, the open area seating is for men and the rooms are for women/couples/families. Women who choose to cover their faces do so in order that men, other than family members, cannot see what they look like. Obviously, you have to take your mask off to eat. The private eating areas allow the women to eat mask free without fear of a man seeing her face. It is perfectly acceptable for a woman who does not cover her face to sit in the open seating areas at most, but not all, restaurants.

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It turned out to be a burger place, so Continue reading Fueling Up and Omani Foods

Hookahs, Souqs, Museums, and Ancient Al-Baleed

We had an appointment to get fuel at 1000. A truck was coming out to the edge of the sea wall, and we would tie up to the sea wall to take on fuel. At 1100, we found out that the truck pump had a problem and that they would not be coming until around 1900 (7:00pm). We were happy that we had enough time to go into town and get some sightseeing in. Today there was no haze, and the mountains stood out clearly in the background. The mountains look a lot like Southern California and Baja California, almost looking more like a painting than real.

Our first stop was lunch, at a place called Jarash. We were seated in a large patio area in front. There were many men, but not a single woman in the restaurant, which made us wonder if it was OK for Christi to be there. None of the other patrons or waiters seemed Continue reading Hookahs, Souqs, Museums, and Ancient Al-Baleed

Driving and Diving at Mirabat

We were a little nervous about going diving. Northern Oman is supposed to have great diving, but in Southern Oman it is hit or miss. Some days visibility is good, and other days it is terrible. And there is no predicting what you are going to get. We chose to go to a relatively remote site farther out of town. The dive master, Ana, said it was shallow, and even if visibility wasn’t good, we would still be able to see a lot of fish.

The dive site is located in Mirabat, over 70 kilometers east of Salalah town, and roughly 100 km from Port Salalah. On the drive out, we followed the main highway out of town. The highway parallels the ocean most of the way. It reminds us of Baja California, Mexico. There are endless miles of dry, brown hills that melt into a stunning blue ocean. We drove for miles and miles with no development, and the areas with development didn’t have much to them. The beaches are stunning, and completely empty. Wow. Finding a deserted beach is not easy anymore.

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We passed several herds of camels just roaming around. The largest of the herds was hanging out in the middle of the road, so we were stuck for several minutes until the camels decided to get out of the road. We also passed a few herds of goats. The largest herd decided Continue reading Driving and Diving at Mirabat

Traditional Omani Food

Today was a busy day at the port. The Sheikh of Dubai’s private yacht arrived this morning. We have no idea if the Sheikh is actually on it or not. It is a flashy multi-million dollar vessel, but we were actually expecting something bigger and flashier. After all, the guy is a sheikh. A cruise ship arrived this morning, as well, and stayed only for the day, leaving before sunset. And in the afternoon, another US military warship arrived. This one was bigger, and had an incredible array of antennas atop of it.

We laid low on Kosmos until 1630 (4:30 pm), then headed into town. We knew nothing would be open until then since today is the Sabbath. On the way to town, we stopped for gas (petrol) for the car. Diesel is USD$0. 41 a liter (about $1.50 a gallon) and gasoline is almost the same. And it is a full service gas station! Too bad marine fuel prices aren’t as low.

We drove around in search of the museum, but never found it. We drove around some more looking for a suitable restaurant. We saw a sign that said “Bin Ateeq Traditional Omani Food”. That was the spot for us. We went in and were ushered into a small private room with a Persian rug and pillows on the ground.

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Our food arrived on a large serving tray. The waiter put Continue reading Traditional Omani Food