Monday 13 April 2009

Oman: Billy goats Gruff

Rug salesman - Al Khityam, Jabal ShamsUnder cloudy skies, we wandered over to the restaurant for breakfast just before 9am. The temperature was around 20C making conditions perfect for the gallery walk. After checking out, we drove to the scruffy village of Al Khityam at the start of trekking route W6.

The villagers were ready for us, offering bargain prices for string, bracelets and rugs. There were some intense negotiations before all three ladies came away with things to hang on walls. Clutching several large banknotes, the crusty gentleman was pleased to pose for photographs.

On the trail, the three Billy Goats Gruff clambered over the rocks while chatting about ladies’ problems and knee operations. We stGallery Walk W6 - Jabal Shamsopped occasionally to admire the wonderful views of the mountains which had been given more depth and texture than usual due to the strong shadows from the clouds. As we returned, we stood to watch three Egyptian vultures soaring gracefully above.

The village children were still peddling their wares as we reached the car and I made a hasty retreat before the thought of buying something else was even considered. Back at the Jabal Shams Travelling and Camping Centre we were treated to an unexpectedly good lunch of rice, chicken curry and vegetaGallery Walk W6 - Jabal Shamsbles. The waiters brought us a pot of freshly brewed Omani coffee and three big lumps of halwa. We could not have asked for a more typical Omani meal for our guests.

Back on the mountain road, I thought the ladies were joking when they asked to stop at another scratchy string stall. They were not. More bargaining ensued, some of which was conducted in German to fool the rather astute young girl with an excellent command of market stall English. She drove a hard bargain, requiring April to perform increasingly exaggerated theatrical responses to the young girl’s outrageous prices. As we got back into the car, my heart sank as I knew there were at least two other stalls on the mountain.

All the other stalls were thankfully closed and we returned to the bottom of the jabal without spending any more money. We continued to Nizwa and onward to Muscat on almost empty roads.

After freshening up, we spent the evening around an excellent piece of brie as a light rain shower bounced off the metal car port roof.

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