Saturday 24 March 2007

Oman: Al Areesh desert camp

Sandwich construction on a massive scale began late morning while I squeezed the entire contents of the house into and on top of the Prado. Departure occurred ahead of mother's (previously unknown to everyone) schedule.

The Al Areesh camp is perched on one of the major 'chain' of dunes, which the owner admitted was not the most sensible place to build a camp, but it was his brother's idea. We immediately spotted a collection of assorted ski equipment and mother's cheeks swelled with delight as she tried to find a matching pair of anything. Eventually she assumed the appropriate done-this-before pose at the top of a dune before sliding down with glee. Meanwhile Al was effortlessly snowboarding with also-done-this-before style before hiking back up with much puffing. Ava, who had never skied, was superb on her first run which started with a high-pitched 'eeeeeek' and ended in almost a carved turn at the bottom of the slope. Thoroughly exhausted, we stopped for a quick cup of tea.

A few moments later, we clambered into a clanky Toyota to head up into the dunes. This is the occasion for Omani drivers to demonstrate their driving skills and judging by the squealing coming from the back of the car, he was doing a good job. Ahmed threw the car at impossible angles while we bounced around like socks in a tumble dryer. The car came to a halt at the highest point in the area, where mother fell out of the back with rubber legs which required support to function correctly. Back on board, the sound of petrified ladies, a face full of sand and a phone call did not faze our driver who continued the circus ride back to camp. We recovered in the cool air as the sun dipped below the distant dunes.

The evening meal included shuwa (pit roasted lamb) which fell off the bone like candy floss from a stick. Everyone exceeded their stomach's capacity, forcing us to sit around the fire afterwards to rub bellies.

That night, Al and Pixi slept under the stars on giant barbecue grills between our huts where bottom noises could be shared with the entire group.

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