A Travellerspoint blog

Nizwa

semi-overcast 24 °C

So it might be even longer in between posts the next few weeks. The fact that this is going up is do in no small part to the ridiculous addicition I have with the Internet. The lack of contact with the outside world is due to the ridiculous amount of traveling we will be doing during this next bit. Right now, I'm in Nizwa, the heart of Oman's interior. This place makes Muscat look like Vegas. It's the center of Omani Ibadism (which is the Islamic equivalent of the Mormons), so even the usual sheeshah cafes are out. We're staying with students from the local university, and the girls are doing with homestay. There's not a whole lot of good from either perspective. Living with Omani students was fun for about 5 minutes, then it got really old, really quickly. The girls at least get to go visiting houses, the guys wind up staying in the hostel the entire day, unless we violate serious Omani social norms to go out on our own to the Internet cafes, as I am doing. Nizwa has even less contact with Westerners than Muscat, and most of this is with random, seriously annoying, German tourists. So, a bunch of white kids traipsing around the city on foot is a major interest. We went and visited the university today, which was not fun. I imagine that animals at the zoo must feel like I did walking around that today. We sat in on a business ethics class, as the professor butchered definitions of teleological theory versus deontological theory. In the process, he managed to rip on the West (for our benefit of course) no less than ten times. It might have been one of the most awkward things I've ever done. I wasn't sure whether to be angry or to burst out laughing at the sheer stupidity of some of the stuff that we heard. Luckily, we're here for only four more days, one of which will be spent toruing. Unfortunately, the cave system we were supposed to be visiting is still not accessible due to last weeks rains. But, after Nizwa, it's two days back in Muscat, then a 10 day swing through Qatar, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. I'm hoping to post from Qatar and the UAE at a minimum, but at the rate things are going, it doesn't look promising.

Posted by mc327503 11:24 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

It's raining, it's pouring

sunny

So forget what I said the other day about why stuff shuts down for rain. Driving through the city today, the storm caused some serious damage. It wiped out part of the road in front of the airport, causing some major traffic issues. They were still pulling cars off the roads and out of ditches, and they were piled on top of each other in some of the wadis. Apparently, a few subcontinentals tried to ford the wadis and got carried away and died. So this is all seriously unfortunate. Not to mention the fact that the roads are actually dirty now. Omanis are serious about cleanliness, it borders on a national fetish. A lot of them take two showers per day, and they wash before and after every meal, and before every prayer. So, they've now deployed a legion of subcontinentals on motorbikes with brooms and trash bins to sweep dirt off the road. And replant the rows of bushes that got wiped out. Either way, it definitely a smart idea not to go to school yesterday.

Posted by mc327503 06:41 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

Cliff jumping in Sur

sunny 30 °C

This past weekend we went to the eastern part of Oman, and it might have been one of the craziest, but most fulfilling, weekends of my life. We went toured a bunch of wadi’s deep in mountain ravines, watched the sunset go down over the sand dunes, went cliff jumping off 50-60 foot drops. It was way too much to do in three days, and I certainly paid for it in the end.
But, to prevent some tangent-ridden rant, I’ll try to start at the beginning. We left school on Wednesday afternoon (weekends here are Thursday and Friday, due to the importance of Friday prayers), and drove to the Wahiba Sands, in the Sharqiyya region of Oman. A mountain range running parallel to the coast of Oman blocks any rain from reaching into the interior. Consequently, big rolling sand dunes have formed right on the other side of the mountains. These dunes look much more like the stereotypical image of a desert that people in America have in mind when they think of the Middle East, rather than the flat gravel beds that actually cover the vast majority of the Arabian Peninsula. We went four-wheeling through the dunes with a local guide, who gets a kick out of making Westerners scream as they go down seventy degree drops on the sand slopes. Our driver was a local Bedouin, and many of the Bedu have traded in their camels for four wheel drive Land Cruisers. At the top of the dunes, we stopped and took pictures. We also got to jump off the lip of the dunes, and competed to see who could jump the farthest. It would be the first of many experiments with gravity during the weekend. After that, we sat and watched the sun going down, which was incredible. Dinner was at the camp, which was basically a bunch of Boy Scout tents covered in palm fronds, with a concrete base. We weren’t the only guests at the camp, and I met a Belgian making a low-budget movie about three women who get stranded in the desert and go skiing across the sand dunes. Don’t expect to be seeing it in any Western theaters any time soon.
The next day we did some basic touring around the region. Due to the lack of rain, the locals devised a system thousands of years ago that is still in use, whereby they are able to channel what little rain does get into the mountains through a series of incredibly intricate channels, all the way down to the farms. It’s quite the engineering feat. For lunch, we stopped at my new favorite place in the world, Wadi Bani Khalid. This wadi is one of the few that has regularly flowing water throughout the year, and it has cut quite a path through the limestone mountain. It’s great for swimming, but it can be a bit tricky. Since the water has worn through the limestone, you’re basically swimming through a rock gorge, and there aren’t many places to grab a hold of on the sides. And, since it’s a running river, there’s a bit of a current. But, since it’s been running through the channel for so long, there’s at least 15 to 20 feet of water in most places. This makes it perfect for cliff jumping. There are numerous places that are good for jumping, ranging from 10 feet up to 50 or 60. I worked my way through the 10 foot and 25 foot jumps, then climbed up to the 60 footer. It took me about fifteen minutes of contemplation, but eventually I managed to over-ride my self preservation instinct and jump, and had a solid three seconds of air time before hitting the water. It felt like the first steep hill on a roller coaster, when all your internal organs feel like they’re trying to squeeze out through your ear drums. So, I promptly did it two more times. And I got both video and photographic proof.
The only downside to my cliff jumping adventures was when I woke up the next day, and pretty much my entire upper body was sore. This was due to a combination of both the jumping, and the fact that I’ve mostly been sitting on my duff here in Oman, and my body was screaming at me from the exercise. Luckily, it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be overcome with ice packs, because the weekend wasn’t quite over. We finished our tour of the region with a visit to one of the two remaining boatyards where the make the traditional Arabian dhows, which was pretty cool. Then we came back along the coastal road, stopping at two more wadi’s. If Wadi Bani Khalid is my new favorite place in the world, Wadi Shab is a close second. Just like Wadi Bani Khalid, it cuts a deep channel through a mountain gorge. However, if you swim far enough up into the wadi, there’s a brief underwater swim, and then you’re in a cave cut from the limestone by years of water running through. The cave was unbelievably beautiful, and I cann’t even begin to estimate how deep the water in there was, despite it being crystal clear. The water had worn a number of ledges, about a foot wide, into the sides of the cave, which were perfect for sitting and resting, and there were channels that could be swam through all over the cave. Some local had installed a rope to climb out of the pool, and there were some good 20 foot jumps right into the cave pool. Nothing as dramatic as the day before, but still very cool. We also had company from a number of frogs, who were also perched on the shelves, staring back at us. Unfortunately we only had about an hour and a half at Wadi Shab, although I could have easily spent an entire day. Unfortunetely, I got a bit dehyrated this weekend during this feverish pace of activity, which made the ride back on the “coastal road” (which is neither near the coast, nor a road, more of a track), a bit interesting. But, it was a great weekend overall.

Posted by mc327503 09:55 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

You know you live in a desert when…

rain 22 °C

… school gets called off because of rain. I woke up today to… thunder? Muscat gets about a sum total of 5 inches of rain every year, and we got about 4 of them today. It was, by Muscat standards, a major storm. School gets called off, even when the school is within walking distance. Our school got called off also, due to the risk of flash flooding on all the highways. There are numerous wadi’s throughout the city, and a wadi is simply a dry riverbed. These become major rivers during even small rains, so during a major storm like this one, the city is shut down. It was nice to see rain again though. The weather has been getting increasingly hot, so the rain should keep everything cool for a few days.

Posted by mc327503 09:54 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

Shakira

sunny

The utter fascination that everyone in the Middle East has with Shakira warrants a brief mention. She is half Lebanese (I think on her mother's side), and consequently, this is the closest thing to someone from the Middle East making it big in Hollywood in recent years. I hear Shakira blaring from car radios all over the city, and the guys imitate her dances, which takes a bit of getting used to. Apparently she's done some work on behalf on Muslims in South MAerica, which makes her even more appealing in the region. Anyways, just goes to show the types of things you learn when overseas.

Posted by mc327503 05:52 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

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