"I am privileged today as I am with the owner of Eastern Rocks Tourism Salim, who is a wealth of knowledge and his expertise respected by the market elders. We are invited to sit down for coffee and dates, the coffee is bittersweet and the taste of rose water evident, one of the elders was originally born in Tanzania, our conversation in Kiswahili makes him smile.
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Arriving in for the first time in Oman was exhilarating to say the least, having not explored a new destination for awhile I was really excited and looking forward to seeing what this country had to offer. Stepping off the plane I was greeted instantly by the heat, it was oppressive though strangely nice. After being on a long haul flight from Melbourne I was happy to breathe some fresh air. I went in search of my guide Juma, he greeted me with a big warm, friendly, charming smile. Instantly I felt at ease and much to my delight he was originally from Tanzania, so I was able to spend our travel days bantering away in Kiswahili.

Leaving Muscat we headed south to the interior region of Nizwa, driving on the right hand side had me feeling a little nervous as I was forever getting into the driver’s side! The roads were smooth and everything in Oman seemed pristine. After what seemed a short trip, it wasn’t long before we left the city limits behind us. The impressive mountain ranges running along the side of us were mesmerising. The stunning beauty of the landscape was spectacular. I found that my Canon 70D SLR just didn’t do the scenery justice as my eyes were in awe of what I was seeing, to capture the moment I needed that extra special lens. As we reached the small town of Bahla we made our way to the majestic Castle of Jabreen, The castle home to the third ruler of Oman, Imam Bil’arub bin Sultan from 1670 – 1692. The castle’s mystique atmosphere are felt and its ancient history seen as you wander through the chambers. The restoration to it’s original architecture show’s the traditional Omani lifestyle with high decorated ceilings, rooms and winding stairways. The use of the fruit – dates for the protection of the castle is fascinating along with the artistry and all its treasures. The view of Bahla and the surrounding green wadi, contrast against the earth tones, as the Akhdar mountain range comes to an end.

Our next stop is Al Hamra, we wander aimlessly through remnant houses and stairways of the mountain side village of Misfat Al Abryeen. Making our way down to the valley there is an unexpected silence only broken by the chatter of talking men and running water, as we come closer to the renovated Misfah Old House. This quaint bed and breakfast is set amongst the banana plantations and sheltered by numerous date palms. We walk our way back up to the top of the village, the winding streets are striking and I can’t help take advantage of the afternoon light for a fantastic photo.

The day has just about come to an end as Juma and I head back to Nizwa for the night, looking forward to what tomorrow will bring as we head to the highest mountains of Al Jabal Al Akhdar.

This morning before venturing to Al Jabal Al Akhdar, we head to the souq and fort of Nizwa. Behind the walls we enter into the market that is just starting to come alive for the day. Instantly, we are looking at how the dessert Halwa a caramelised traditional Omani recipe is made. The strings of garlic are huge and the eggs are the whitest that I have ever seen. I am privileged today as I am with the owner of Eastern Rocks Tourism Salim, who is a wealth of knowledge and his expertise respected by the market elders. We are invited to sit down for coffee and dates, the coffee is bittersweet and the taste of rose water evident, one of the elders was originally born in Tanzania, our conversation in Kiswahili makes him smile.

The journey to Al Jabal Al Akhdar can only be done in a 4WD, the paved roads are nearly immaculate as we drive the steep incline to the top. The heat of the day passes into a comfortable 24 degrees, as we arrive the vegetation changes and we come across the healing shrubs of the Juniper (Al Alan) that surround the villages. The most interesting are the amount of pomegranate trees that are grown. The old village of Wadi Bani Habib is amazing, the stillness and silence of nothingness is probably the only way to describe the quietness of this area. The village perched on the side of the mountain is a mixture of old and new also surrounded by caves that were once home to native dwellers. Terrace farming of the old continues today and rose water from the “Rosa Damascena or Damask Rose” is a popular ingredient used in coffee, halwa, medicinal purposes and as perfume for your hands after a meal.

By lunch time it is time to make our way back down towards Nizwa, with the distant views you are able to see for miles. Once at the bottom of the escarpment, we head off on the next part of our journey south towards Ibra and Wahiba Sands.

Justine Glen

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