Visiting the Eastern Edge of Arabia

Last month between classes, I used my break with my Swiss friend Sonja to take a trip across Oman to the eastern island of Masira. A lot of times when I look at a map I see some obscure, remote location and think, “Wow, it would be cool to go there.” For this trip, I finally did that, and for that reason it was one of the coolest trips I’ve been on!

We made our trip with a rented car from the university and started on Saturday, March 12, driving about 5 hours until we reached the eastern edge of the Sharqiya region to take a 1.5 hour ferry to Masira. Throughout the whole trip we split up our driving about 50/50 between the two of us. Our trip wasn’t so easy though because we ran into a heavily flooded wadi blocking the road through the desert. We were quite afraid to cross because we could see both a half-submerged bus and a half-submerged truck on opposing ends of the wadi. There were also a group of people trying to pull the submerged truck out of the water with rope, which they eventually managed to do. We decided to wait until that was finished and until we saw a car of the same size as ours cross safely before we would try, and we did as well. It probably would have been safer to turn around, but at the very beginning of our trip with our hotel reservations already arranged, that wasn’t an option! We made it through with no issue, though, but it did cost us an hour or two of extra time waiting. Luckily we had supplies to have a little picnic while we were sitting around. We missed the ferry we had originally planned to take, but there was another one that left around 5:00.

By the time that we made it to the island, it was getting dark, and we had a hard time finding where we planned to stay, a place simply called “Beach Camp” (with no Arabic name). We drove south until we saw a sign on the road pointing us towards the camp. It turns out that it really was right on the beach, meaning we had to drive our little Acura car through a sand-road late at night (not without almost driving into the water)! We found it eventually, had dinner, and went to bed. We stayed there for the following three nights.

Staying at the Beach Camp, especially for the first two nights, was great! We got the “deluxe” room for the first half of our trip, complete with its own air conditioning unit and bathroom. After that, we stayed in the room with just two simple beds and some shelves with separate bathrooms in other little huts outside, which was much more of a “beach camp” experience. We stayed there at the “off” season, so it was really just run by one guy – an Indian man from Kerala named Sadek who spoke decent English and Arabic. The four days sort of blended together, so I’ll recount the most interesting experiences in that span of time.

We began each day by having breakfast at the camp – Sadek made very good pancakes! We spent a lot of time driving around the island and visiting the various beaches – we were always the only people on all of them! The beaches were pristine, and the water was clear and blue. I’d never been to a beach like that in my life – I’m used to Litchfield, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston, which are nice, but the water is always cloudy and the beaches are always crowded. I think I was spoiled by my experience there – no other sounds than the crashing of the waves, nothing else to see but the sand and the sea.

The Island was very small – it only takes about 30 minutes to drive from one end to the other! It’s geography was interesting – there were mountains in the middle, but most of the rest of it was desert. Surprisingly, it actually wasn’t much different from the rest of northern Oman.

We spent one afternoon visiting the only sizable village on the Island – Ra’as al Hilf. Honestly it wasn’t really much different than the rest of Oman, but I did have some good fish at a little cafe on the street. As I was waiting for my food, I greeted an older gentleman in Arabic. After learning that I speak Arabic, he insisted that I go visit him in his house for coffee and dates right then, but I told him I was still waiting to eat. He said he would return after visiting the supermarket, but unfortunately he didn’t return after an hour so we had to leave. It was a nice exchange, though! That evening we had a nice dinner at the Masira Island Resort – I had a beer with some good Indian food.

Through the beach camp I also made a new Omani friend – a fisherman named Hilal (which means “crescent” in Arabic, an awesome name in my opinion). He came by the camp the first night we were there, and was very interested in talking to me about my opinions of life in Oman, what I know about Islam, what I do in the United States, and so on. I spoke with him the following few nights. It was a little hard for me to understand him because he has a fairly different dialect of Arabic than what I’m used to, and he prefers not to speak Fusha (Modern Standard Arabic). One of the days we were there, he took us out on his boat to go fishing! I only caught one little fish, and Sonja did the same, but he caught several. He even caught a barracuda and a cuttlefish. We ate the fish that we caught for dinner. (Fish is an exception to my vegetarianism when it’s hard for me to find any other option here).

After four nights on Masira Island, we took the ferry back to mainland Oman for what we had planned as the second half of our trip, visiting Musandam, an Omani exclave in the north. However, the ferry there was canceled due to the storm, and the amount of border crossings we would have to make made it impossible to go there by car. Instead we decided to stay an extra night in Muscat at a nice hotel called the Ramee grand. We visited the Matrah souq in Muscat, which I visited last summer, so I didn’t take any pictures. We went to some nice restaurants, and went to more beaches. I went to a Mexican restaurant in Muscat because I always miss Mexican food while I’m here. Honestly, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but it was still pretty good.

I realized after that trip that it was my first long vacation on my own as an adult, and it was a lot of fun! It was cool to drive again, too, and cool to add driving in another country to my list of experiences. As usual, I’ll end my post with some other random photos that I’ve accumulated since then.


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