Following up on part 1 of the trip on Sharqiya, I’ll be talking about our Friday and Saturday now.
In the morning, we woke up to ride both ATVs and camels in the desert! I started with the ATV, which was really wild. I’d never ridden one of those before, and I’m fairly certain I almost flew off at one point. We were supposed to stay together in a line, but I purposely waited back a couple times so that I could rev up the engine and go forward full speed.
After the brief ATV ride, I was able to ride a camel. It was pretty simple; I just got on as the camel was sitting down, and then an Omani kid led the camel around for a few minutes. I never realized how tall camels are! Once I was up there, I realized that it would not be pleasant if I fell down. It also wasn’t as uncomfortable as some people made it out to be. One thing that was a little scary was that when the ride was over, my camel refused to sit down for a moment and started to back away from the person leading it, but it did after a few attempts.
After that, we planned to head to Sur, a region on the coast of Sharqiya, to go to a beach to see where hundreds of sea turtles lay their eggs. But we ran into quite a setback: the road we had planned to take ran right through a wadi that was now flooded in several places due to the storm. We definitely couldn’t have driven through it, so we could either have waited to see if the flood subsided or driven through Muscat and around to Sur. Despite it being a four to five hour drive, we took the second option because we had no idea how long we’d have to wait.
As we were driving to Muscat, however, we got a call from the hotel in Sur that the weather was far too violent due to the tropical storm and that we should go at another time. Through a stroke of luck, our director Talal managed to get us a night at the Millennium Hotel, a five star hotel in Muscat!
On the way there, we stopped for lunch at a traditional Omani restaurant. Surprisingly, this was the first time I ate real Omani food! Unless I wanted to eat yogurt and rice, I had to eat some kind of meat, so I got fish. I think it was kingfish but I’m not really sure. The dish that I got was Mandi rice with fish. The rice was actually a Yemeni variety, but the fish was Omani. It was excellent – definitely some of the best fish I’ve ever had. It was a lot of fun too because we sat on the floor and ate with our hands. I have to say, there’s a special technique to eating rice with one’s hands that I was not able to figure out.
The hotel was pretty incredible, and we even had a room with a separate toilet and shower! We spent the rest of Friday and Saturday relaxing, swimming at the pool and in the ocean, and eating ridiculous amounts of food. There was also a bar, but I elected not to drink anything other than a (non-alcoholic) smoothie.
Everyone at the hotel spoke English, but I impressed them a few times with my Arabic. I asked for a towel at the pool in Arabic. There was a little confusion at first though because I asked for a bedsheet at first (sharshaf) when I meant to say towel (manshafa). I checked out from my room in Arabic as well.