Wednesday 12 March 2008

Oman: to the desert

As I arrived home from work, everyone was sitting around the garden table keen to depart. A long hour later and we were on our way to the Wahiba via Bidbid from where local drivers hone appalling driving skills.

Several cars were preparing for the sunset drive as we drove into the Al Areesh camp causing Mrs M to employ the international arm waving gesture while shouting, '…..don't go without us!' They climbed into a Prado while G explained her reluctance to be thrown around in a tin box.

Stiff refreshment was required on return before dinner with the throng. We are not used to seeing throngs at Al Areesh as we normally come during the week. There was a confusion of tongues; Arabic, English, French, German, east European and (unusually) American accents drifted through the evening air.

Musicians twanged and banged on instruments after dinner while men in gleaming white dishdashas shuffled around in rhythmic procession, trying to entice reluctant Europeans to dance.

During the evening we spotted a chap that we met in Washington in 2005. A few days before we were about to depart for Oman, the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall featured 'Oman: Desert, Oasis, and Sea'. There were traditional Omani dance and music events, camels, boats, traditional building exhibitions, cookery demonstrations and all sorts of other activities. It was a great appetiser for what was to come.

In one exhibit, we met Peter Ochs, author of Maverick Guide to Oman, who stood in front of a large model of a dhow. We chatted then about Oman and continued the conversation two and-a-half years later in a tent in the Wahiba Sands. Coincidentally we also met Jean-Luc Amann (Head Chef at the Al Bustan), who we have encountered a few times in Muscat.

An international incident was narrowly avoided when we found people using our bathroom.

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