What I didn’t mention about my first day in Doha is that upon arrival the night before, I had an interesting encounter. After deplaning (after another annoying bus ride from the airplane to the airport), making it through arrivals, getting a visa at immigration (easy to purchase on the spot with a credit card as an American), I walked around aimlessly looking for the Uber pickup. Just as I hit the “request” button, I received an email from the Golden Ocean Hotel where I was staying about a driver at the airport who could take me to the hotel. So I walked back downstairs and tried to look for him, and eventually asked a airport helped who directed me to an area in the front where the hotel pickup representatives were stationed. I checked in, and as I was doing so and Indian gentlemen who was also going to the same hotel began asking the check-in liaison how long we would wait at the airport until departing. The liason said 20 minutes, and then I jumped in and said “But, he also said that 5 minutes ago when I asked him” 😉 The Indian man, Deepak, and I then struck….
Today was the big day to explore south of Salalah, and see if I would be able to put a foot, nay, a toe, in to Yemen. I woke up early to get my things in order, print the Qatar Airways boarding passes (QR let’s you check in 48 hours in advance, so I was able to get both the passes for both flights), finish some writing and work, do yoga, and be ready by 10AM. My guide was waiting for me a few minutes early, so I headed downstairs and checked out. He had a white Nissan sedan and was wearing the traditional Omani dress with a wonderfully colorful keffiyah. He introduced himself as Mohammed (another one!), but that’s no surprise since such a high percentage of Islamic men are named Mohammed or some variation (Mahmoud, etc.). Incidentally, I tried to do some research on exactly what %, but I couldn’t find the answer. It feels in the range of 60% to me. He explained the plan to me of heading south of Salalah to start out with, and I suggested we stop by the mosque first since it closed at 11AM. Even though it was not part of the….
I arrived in Salalah mid-evening on a Thursday night so that I could see Salalah in two days, but then I decided to take in easy for Friday morning catch up on email, write and rest. After a restful evening at the Hilton Salalah, I woke up again ready for a beach day, but again the weather was not going to cooperate. The riyah wind was sweeping through town on the same storm that Brice was seeing now in Bahrain and that Sulaiman had warned me about in Muscat. This made it hard to be active outside on my trip to Salalah in two days. I also fit in another visit to the gym, which felt good to get back on track, now two days in a row. Here’s a view from my balcony which shows how hard the wind is blowing – and no, it’s not that cold out. I had some tea and a few pieces of fruit that the Hilton had welcomed me with the previous night, but didn’t want to fill up because I had planned to meet Reggie (the Filipino man I met on the flight to Salalah the previous evening) for dinner at 6PM….
I woke up at 7AM after a full 9 hours of uninterrupted, much needed sleep before we headed out to Bahla. Even though this is a “vacation”, I was still pushing myself to see and do a lot (because Oman had a lot to see and do in!), and therefore became sleep deprived. I could barely keep my eyes open the previous day driving to Wahiba Sands and even Nizwa. But, today was different due to the refreshing rest. I met Sulaiman for another light breakfast even though there was a full array of English and Omani foods to choose from, and of course tea. The food was a lot better than I would expect on the top of a mountain. This was my last day in Muscat, and we again spent it wisely. We unwound back down the mountain at 830AM, taking a few stops at the same places we stopped the day before because the morning light provided a lens through which to view the natural beauty. Not only that, but villagers were working their shared land and there was more activity and life in the morning. We continued driving for about an hour to Bahla, which we….
The next morning was an early start because it was going to be a long day of driving through the Omani mountains, the desert, and Nizwa. I started with a small breakfast of local watermelon and tea around 815AM at the hotel and then met Sulaiman outside. Then, we stopped by a local dhow making workshop. Incidentally, the above pic shows the bridge we had driven over the previous night to get to the turtle reserve beach area. Just getting out of Sur and getting to the Wahiba Sands desert area was about a 2-hour drive, and we arrived around 1030AM. The sands were vast and beautiful. We stopped first and had a short visit for Bedouin coffee and dates with a local family in their Bedouin tents (read: tourist trap). Sulaiman was great because he showed me these things quickly and there was never any pressure to buy anything (and I never did). It was nice to just breeze through and see what there was to see without obligation. Omanis generally are a low-pressure culture, adding to the pleasantness and relaxed nature of the country. Then we went dune-bashing for twenty minutes or so, and made it to nearly….