The Best of the Middle East, Where East Meets West
The topographical variety of Oman can be overwhelming. From snow peaked mountains to desert plateaus, one is struck by the raw beauty of this Gulf State country. On the first day, together with my guide, I drove up from the seacoast into the hills traversing the Eastern shores and ended up in a “wadi” or “valley”. A wadi is a naturally fertile valley that cascades down from the mountains and forms a rich bio-diverse and beautiful place to visit. We followed a dirt road from the sea level heat and discovered a cool and refreshing basin of water. I was struck not only by the beauty of the area but by this pristine water source in the middle of the desert where you are welcome to linger and take a swim.
A day’s drive later I found myself in the middle of the Gulf of Oman Desert, experiencing the Bedouin lifestyle. An exhilarating dune drive across the desert led us to a Bedouin camp where tents were set up and refreshments. The desert has never ceased to amaze me by the vastness and austerity of the panorama and yet the raw beauty is reminiscent of the “Lawrence of Arabia” days.
One of the highlights of the trip was my visit to Nizwa the following day where I went early to see the weekly livestock auction. It is a fascinating scene with a parade of animals and locals bidding, including donkeys, cows, goats and sheep.
Driving back to Muscat, I realized that, despite these remote and romantic experiences, the country is a very progressive Gulf State and its capital city is quite chic. Good hotels, restaurants, and believe it or not – Starbucks are abound. The city boasts a Royal Opera House with a lively and vibrant cultural scene. Oman in so many ways represents the best of the Gulf States with every Western luxury easily accessible yet it retains a very wonderfully authentic heritage.