Weekend in Sharqiya, Part 1

Well, it’s been quite a busy week, so I’m a few blog posts behind. We had a three day trip to the Eastern region of Oman, Ash-Sharqiya, which I’ll talk about in two separate posts.

Have you ever heard the stereotype of Americans being ridiculously loud? I always figured that was just something people said, but after I’ve been here and spoken with so many Omanis, I can say that it is definitely true that we are really loud people sometimes (myself included, of course!). Being with a large group of Omanis, for example, it was not necessary to have a shouting match to try to have a normal conversation. Whereas a room full of Americans seems to get louder and louder because of people trying to talk over each other. I can’t say why this is; it’s just something I’ve noticed, and something I assumed was the norm everywhere until I came here.

This past weekend we had planned to visit Wahiba Sands, a sand desert in the Sharqiya region, and then go to the coast of Sharqiya to see a beach where hundreds of sea turtles lay their eggs. As you shall read, however, our plans had to change because of a tropical storm.

We began our trip on Thursday, starting the weekend a day early. We left in the morning and stopped by a famous wadi, Wadi Bani Khalid. I think I wrote this before, but a wadi is a riverbed that floods very quickly during rainstorms, or in the case of Wadi Bani Khalid, is always a flowing to some degree. And the potential for flooding became a complicating factor: we drove through the (dry) wadi to a natural pool at the end, but we were only able to stay for 30 minutes because it was going to flood at any time due to the impending storm!

The water was incredibly clear and just the right temperature. It was pretty clean as well, apparently, because I accidentally swallowed a sizable gulp due to poor swimming technique.

After our short swim at the pool at the end of the wadi, we headed off to our next stop: the Arabian Oryx Camp in the Wahiba Sands desert. We had to stop and switch from our two buses to a fleet of cars with special tires for the sand.

The Camp was a genuinely unique place. We were told that we’d be staying in tents, but they were a bit more like trailers or something like that. They had a cloth roof, but full walls, windows, and wooden doors. They also had their own bathrooms with showers and running water, so we were much more comfortable than we thought we’d be. We had lunch at a buffet there, napped in the afternoon, and then set out in our fleet of cars to check out the desert in the evening before dinner. As you can see, it was actually very cloudy and pretty comfortable heat-wise, so it was a good day to explore the desert.

That desert was unlike any place I’ve ever visited. It’s hard to describe how I felt being encircled by all the sand, surrounding me and flying around me in the wind. It was almost like a religious experience; I’m not really sure. But I feel drawn to the desert in a way that I don’t fully understand. My dream house wouldn’t be at the beach or in the mountains – it would be a bunker way out in the middle of the sand dunes.

Right after we got back, we tried to climb to the top of one of the huge dunes near the camp and sled down in the sand, but it didn’t really work to well. Climbing up the loose sand was exhausting, but it was also pretty fun. We had to get down from the dune pretty quickly, though, because we saw some intense lightning flashes from the storm!

That evening, we had another buffet at the camp, and then we were able to see a traditional Omani band play. This was probably my favorite thing I’ve done here so far. The music was incredible – usually led by an Oud accompanied with several drums. One of the musicians also played bagpipes for one song. My favorite thing about the music was that it was very informal and jam-based. Even though the Oud sounds and looks very different from the guitar, a lot of the Oud player’s mannerisms were like those of a guitar player, such as how he took solos and ended songs. I was even able to try out the Oud, which was surprisingly not as different from the guitar as I thought it would be. I’d like to buy one someday, but bringing one back would wind up being quite a hassle. They also let us play the drums with them for a lot of their songs. Unfortunately, they asked that we don’t put pictures on social media (or at least that’s what I think they said – this was requested in Arabic), so I won’t put any here. I have pictures and videos that I can share in person when I get back.

We had an even fuller day following Friday, which I’ll talk about in my next post tomorrow.

Ramadan Kareem!

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