An Omani Road Trip

Distance: 2,492 km     Duration: 58 hours     Vehicles destroyed: 0

All in all, having already been hit twice while driving during my first three months on the peninsula, the first real road trip was a resounding success.

It’s exactly 1,000 kilometers from my home in Muscat to Salalah, the tropical (it has trees) southern resort city near the Yemeni border. Separating Oman’s two cities is the scorching Arabian desert, one of the harshest and most unforgiving topographies on Earth. It’s vital that the hardened, intrepid adventurer possesses not only the skills but also the tools necessary to survive such a perilous journey, so after careful consideration of the vehicle in my carport I chose my trusty rented Suzuki Swift as being appropriate, and set out with the morning sun.

My carefully selected one-terrain vehicle.

The treacherous mountain passes south of Muscat are fraught with photo opportunities…Driving Oman

…but I pressed on… and after a couple of hours the mountains gave way to seven hundred kilometers of this.The Arabian Desert

Apparently, driving hour after hour through the desert is not everyone’s idea of fun. I can’t imagine why. It’s not like the entire trip looked exactly like that.

No, I lie. Pretty much the entire trip looked exactly like that. Oh, there were also a couple of these…Random sand, Oman

Eventually though, the terrain once again began to change and I finally reached the tropical jewel of the Arab world… Salalah! …which, according to Google, looks something like this…

Salalah, Oman. Photo: not me.
Salalah, Oman.                                                                Photo: Global Arab Network.

 I presumably arrived at a different time of year, via a different road (or possibly a different dimension) and drove straight into the city itself, which looks like this…

Salalah, Oman.    Photo: me
Salalah, Oman.                                                                             Photo: me

Like pretty much everywhere in Oman, Salalah has every amenity you could possibly need.Omani barber shops …provided all you need is a haircut.

But I jest. I saw many other stores of course, catering to all the men who already had a haircut. For some reason though they only seemed to sell curtains, which would be mildly irritating for consumers actually in the market for new curtains, because they were all closed.

Wandering the deserted streets of the nation’s second largest city (pop. 200,000), it began to dawn on me that something was missing – namely the supposed 200,000 residents who I hoped were not busy fleeing the approaching tsunami I hadn’t been notified of.Salalah, Eid al-Adha

I headed for the beach, figuring maybe the conspicuously absent Omanis would be hanging out there, drinking in the view and the local coffee. They weren’t there though, and the Salalah waterfront wasn’t exactly as I had expected.Beachfront, Salalah

Being new to the Arab world (perhaps like a recently transplanted Muslim driving into a small American city on December 25 and wondering where everybody went) it took a few minutes to realise this was the day of Eid al-Adha, and that all the Omanis were at home preparing to celebrating the Feast of the Sacrifice with their families.

Well, not everyone was at home. A few of the Salalah men were out on the street, preparing for the feast in accordance with ancient custom.Goat slaughter, central Salalah

Other men were sitting around in small groups on one particular street, cutting and categorising various goat chunks, presumably in accordance with ancient custom.Fresh goat, Salalah, Oman.

I headed South toward Yemen. A goat farmer was taking his goats out to feed on some delicious rocks (I guess).

Mmmm... nice juicy rocks.
Mmmm… nice juicy rocks.

There were some crazy mountains to climb, by means of some crazy mountain roads.Driving southern Oman…and of course there were camels to dodge.Camels, southern Oman…but the view from the top was quite something.Coastline, southern Oman

I realised that if I kept travelling south I would end up in Yemen, which I hadn’t planned for, so, I turned the car around and… well, I drove home (there’s not really any other way to end road-trip stories, except perhaps stories of road trips that go tragically wrong). The end.


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