Thursday, March 3, 2011


The less said the better. We seem to be moving to more conservative places, for in each stop we see more full black abayas and veils. There are signs everywhere: no alcohol. We must cover ankles to wrists and carry headscarfs. You could not pay me to live here.
Questionable morals among the appetizers...

and a very disturbing visage at breakfast. 

Fortunately the Watermelon Open Casket Breakfast has given way to cantaloupes carved like baskets and a cheery eggplant penguin.
Goats in the Graveyard
Khasab, Mussandam Peninsula, Oman

We are in The Sheltering Sky: bare crumbling grey mountains, no vegetation. Where the sea meets the rock it is starkly beautiful. 
Sad clusters of abandoned stone houses shimmer in the heat, and this is winter. The government is building everyone a new house. Right next door to the old one. Wonder what Grandma thinks?
Lots of goats, some in compromising positions. We realize when we visit a real village that the goats are the garbage collectors. And tree trimmers. 
The harbor is full of small open speedboats stacked with grey plastic-wrapped packages; we’re told they are cigarettes, electronics and fabrics going to Iran. And God only knows what else. Many of them leave late in the day, stay in international waters until dark, then run for shore in Iran. 
Joe tells a story about being stopped during a dive trip by an Iranian military boat. He was collecting underwater plant life and was afraid he was in big trouble.
First question: “Do you have any cold Coca-Cola?” As the smugglers streamed by, Joe asked the Iranian Military Captain “Aren’t you concerned about the smugglers?”
He smiled and said, “Not today. Once a month we arrest one, and we make sure the media is on hand. Now, do you have any more cold Coca-Cola?”
We are herded onto busses and given a few minutes at two forts, (fully rebuilt with the requisite pair of old cannon in front) then driven round in circles and fed coffee and sweets until it’s our turn to get on the Dhows. We feel like sheep. “Ten minutes here, ladies and gentlemen. Be sure to be back on the busses in Ten Minutes.” I will never take another bus. I will walk, swim, crawl. 

How Now Brown Dhow
So glad we did the dhows last, for the sun beats down. I feel sorry for the other group, they went on the dhows in the morning and are now sweltering in the forts.

We have a typical  Omani lunch on the dhow - it is the same food we’ve had at nearly every buffet (and you know how I feel about buffets!)
Rice, chicken thighs (apparently none of the chickens here have breasts) hummus (fabulous, you’ll never buy packaged again) salad (so far so good), pita bread. These guys also grill a fish - when I first got on the dhow I thought the boat was on fire, but it was only a Weber smoking away next to the tiller, and when we stop for lunch the fish is just done - it is moist and delicious, grilled in foil. 
Our Captain is a ringer for Michael Jackson, in Ray Ban shades and designer blue jeans.

The local guide hands around bottled water, saying “Omani white wine, anyone?”
The water is cool, and a dozen humpback dolphins come out to surf our bow wave. 

There is swimming, no rushing, no stinking busses. I see a four foot kingfish leap in a huge arc out of the water. The sun is low as we return, tired and happy.

Apparently most of the fish sold or eaten in Dubai comes from Oman. There is pride and competition between the cities here...just ask the local tour guide about the Emirate next door. Then stand back.
On the way back to the ship we meet a goat who took a shortcut. The guy who owns this car has to know this is what happens when you don’t leave enough room at the front of your car. 
And we think our parking lots are hazardous.

A full day, a good day.

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