Oman! I have just been back in Sweden for three days and I wish with my heart that I was back in this spectacular country. What then is it I miss and long for?
Well, it is a country with lots of diverse natural beauty. The coastline in itself is amazing with its natural reserves like the diving at Dimaaniyat Islands and the preservation of the green turtles, Ras Al Jinz, great wadis, sandy beaches and charming cities like Sur, Salalah and Muscat. But for me, the best side of Oman is the interior. This is where you find a feeling of the old Arabia and Oman with its castles, palm oasis’s, giant wadis, deserts like Wahiba Sands and the great Rub Al-Khali and amongst the spectacular mountain scenery at Jebel Shams and definitely amid picturesque towns and settlements like Misfah, Bahla, Al Hamra and Nizwa. And cruising the souks of Nizwa and Muttrah smelling the frankincense, seeing the diversity of stalls and all the people, is a strong memory. Not for the shopping, but for the atmosphere and one has to stop at one of the coffee stalls and have a kavva whilst watching life, that is happiness! I also have a strong memory when my guide Kamil Al Raisi and me avoided one of the more upper class touristic restaurants –after awhile, since it is all buffets and full of tourist from everywhere, you get fed up, after all one is in Oman to meet local people- and instead just sat down on a mat on the parking lot outside the souk in Nizwa and had a bunch of tasty mutton kebabs together with two rough looking Yemenis who had come in for the weekly cattle market. That is the true Oman. It´s people.
It is the people I met I remember the most. Oman is unique in many ways. And when I talk about people it is not just the Omanis themselves, but all the Indians, Pakistanis, Baluchis and also Europeans who live here. There´s such a spirit of pioneering, dignity, kindness and generosity, that I am amazed that distinguished behaviour like that still exists in a world which by the day is getting harder, more violent, stupid and more difficult. There´s a few meetings I remember more than others, due to their dignity. One was an old man, a beekeeper, living in a small village compromising a few houses, all his family, somewhere in the Jebel Akdar range. The bees had once come from Yemen and had travelled all the way to his village and he kept this tradition alive with a constant twinkle in the eye. Kamil had warned me before, he will invite us and we will not get out before we are stuffed with honey more than we’ve had all together before in our lives. Very true indeed! During this visit, my first day in Oman, I witnessed the dignity of just serving a cup of coffee to a visitor. As a visitor you feel honoured indeed! He didn´t only look like one, but had the awareness of a great mullah! We felt sick for a couple of days after that, Kamil and me. Too much honey!
Next stop was a visit to a Bedu family living deep into the great Wadi Ghul. Carpet weavers for generations. I asked one of them through Kamil, if everything was better nowadays, since Sultan Qaboos Bin Said had modernized the country and he answered:
“Everything! Nowadays we can travel anywhere without being worried to be attacked by another tribe.”
He and his family had ended up far into this deep wadi to get away from hostile tribes once upon a time. We sat there in the shadow of a big ghaf for a long time, eating dates and drinking tea. If it hadn’t been for the parked cars and the eternally ringing mobile phones, it could have been a scene from a time hundreds of years back.
In Wahiba Sands we came across the desert Bedu. And I stopped to take a photo of the first camel I saw. Big mistake. Suddenly a car shot out of the desert with a yelling woman. After some continuous yelling which felt like a long time, I thought she was screaming at the guy who came to pick up the camel, maybe her husband, so I didn´t realise it was at me. Then she drove up to our car and screamed through the window:
”Is he stupid. Surely he must see that she is pregnant and if he takes flash photos, she might loose her baby!”
“No, he doesn’t know anything about camels” Kamil my Omani guide and very good friend said, “He didn’t understand that you were shouting at him.”
“But he is English” she said a bit surprised, “They know everything!”
She looked both stunned and upset at us for a moment. The finger tips on both hands were henna painted black, she had a scarf slightly covering her very dark hair, lots of golden looking armbands on both wrists and her stare was proud and free of any worries. Except for her female camel.
“You see?” Kamil said grinning when we continued our trip on the sandy and bumpy, very corrugated, desert road, “Just like the story from Africa you told me yesterday? That local people believe white people are better? And that a flash can kill the baby of the camel? This is because they are not educated. They live here, they’re people of the desert, hard and tough people, but they are not educated all of them. Then they would know what I know, I know you are not better than us!”
Next we visited a bedu camp located in between two great dunes. An old woman and her son who treated us to their generosity and I didn´t even know that they survived on selling carpets to tourists, because nobody told me. That is another great thing with Oman, there´s no hassling by tiresome sales people. Not even in the Muttrah Souk. The same regards the issue of religion. In some countries you get a 50 minute lecture from a local if you by chance don´t belong to the same religion. The word is dignity. Oman is a country to love.
- See the slideshow from Oman here!