Dishdashas, Kumars and Massars

xxx km, xxx meters altitude gain (in total xxxxkm and altitude gain of xxxx m)
547 km and 1,242 meters altitude gain (in total 6,194km and altitude gain of 39,586 m)

20 – 31 December, 2015 – We liked Oman right from the very beginning. The weather was great, people were great, cycling was great – most of the times. On our first day cycling to the coast we stopped in a small village to fix a puncture and fill up our water bottles and were soon surrounded by Omanis who invited us to stay. As we hadn’t cycled much that day we were keen on moving on and declined. We were cycling through rugged mountains on a relatively quiet road and reached Sohar in the early afternoon. As always, we checked out the luxury Sohar Beach Hotel for Wifi and asked if we could pitch the tent in their garden. Wifi wasn’t an issue at all and for camping they advised the nearby park by the beach where there were also showers and toilets. What more do you need? A SIM-card of course. Which was a few hours later provided by Salim, another Omani who saw us pitching the tent and desperately wanted to help us. We exchanged phone numbers as he lived near Muscat with family elsewhere and he invited us to stay at his place.

Breaking up camp next to the border
Breaking up camp next to the border
Johan fixing a flat tire in front of a mosque
Johan fixing a flat tire in front of a mosque
The Omanis who wanted us to stay
The Omanis who wanted us to stay

We were now cycling south along the coast and through small fishing villages looking for a beach hangout to take some days off of the bike. A difficult mission as we didn’t want to go to one of the expensive beach resorts nor pitch the tent somewhere where there wasn’t fresh water easily available. Cycling was a piece of cake as we cruised with the wind enjoying a quiet road almost all the time along unspoiled beaches. The villages were bizarre though. A lot of old houses along the road were broken down with the debris just laying around. Fishermen were still doing their business and a few shops were open but the whole atmosphere was odd. We were told that the government was planning to build a new coastal highway and had started relocating people living in that area.

It is hard to see women on the streets and even harder to take a photo of them
It is hard to see women on the streets and even harder to take a photo of them
School kids
School kids

DSCF6164

P1240477

And gone they are
And gone they are
Workers
Workers
Fishmarket in Sohar
Fishmarket in Sohar

P1240483

P1240488

DSCF6206

DSCF6234

DSCF6254 DSCF6260 DSCF6268

Here we stayed one night with a lovely family
Here we stayed one night with a lovely family
One of the many castles that can be found in Oman
One of the many castles that can be found in Oman

DSCF6310

DSCF6327

Thankfully tastes are all different
Thankfully tastes are all different
A very common way to cross highways - not just for cyclists but everything that fits through
A very common way to cross highways – not just for cyclists but everything that fits through

After a few days we reached the Millennium Beach Resort, another 4-star hotel by the beach. As we needed WiFi and were still looking for our beach hangout Johan checked with the reception desk if we could pitch the tent somewhere on their property. We could and were sent to the far end of the hotel next to the sailing school. Happily we pitched our tent on a small piece of grass and went to the swimming pool. Unfortunately we didn’t consider that we were in a very dry environment and green grass will only stay green if watered regularly and we both woke with a start at 2am when the sprinklers went off! Thankfully we didn’t pitch the tent on one of these guys but the tent still got pretty wet. Despite the ‘rain’ we wanted to stay longer as Christmas was approaching and the sailing school offered us one of their changing rooms for the following nights. So we continued enjoying some of the luxuries of a 4-star hotel such as Wifi, swimming pool, beach, towels and a daily shower without paying anything for it and treated ourselves to a fine Christmas lunch and drinks.

It can't get much nicer...
It can’t get much nicer…
...except for the views maybe ;-)?
…except for the views maybe ;-)?
Our 'bedroom
Our ‘bedroom’

After three days we eventually continued, this time no longer along the coast but in the direction of the mountains, as Salim expected us in Al Rustaq, a little town at the bottom of the mountains with hot springs and an old castle. On the way we met Derek, an English archaeologist and professor at the Muscat University, who invited us to stay at his house in Al Rustaq for the night. With a bunch of students he was looking for historical artefacts in the Batinah region. As soon as we had reached the town we called Salim. Unfortunately he had to return to Muscat that day and was disappointed that we hadn’t arrived the day before as originally planned. He took us around in his car to show us his town and renewed his invitation for Muscat. Fortunately we had met Derek and at his house we joined his students’ briefing and learned a lot about the Batinah coast – a formerly fertile area due to a unique ancient system of water channels called Falaj. Nowadays there is hardly any vegetation as fresh water resources become wasted by seawater due to the overconsumption of fresh water.

P1240507

DSCF6445

Al Rustaq
Al Rustaq
With Salim
With Salim
At a Falaj, the water has a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius
At a Falaj, the water has a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius
Don't they all look gorgeous in their dishdashas?
Don’t they all look gorgeous in their dishdashas? We really loved their dresses, the hat is by the way called kumar and the turban massar.
The pole belongs to the traditional dress and is used for protection from animals
The stick belongs to the traditional dress and is used for protection from animals
Another canal, water will be released at certain times only
Another canal, water will be released at certain times only
With Salim in front of the closed Al Rustaq fort
With Salim in front of the closed Al Rustaq fort

DSCF6519

After a lovely and educative breakfast with Derek we continued our journey along the chocolate brown mountains and back in the direction of the coast. As we wanted to visit another castle in the area we pitched our tent at a nearby source. We thought this was a great idea as we could swim in the river with a water temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius. Signs were advising tourists not to use soap in the water but in the pool Indians, Pakistanis and later also some Omanis sat washing themselves – with soap of course. As it was the weekend it also wasn’t a good overnight place. People kept coming for a swim and partying until as late as 2am. On the nearby parking they were spinning their cars – a very stupid and scary hobby – or riding them through the hot river. Shattered we left the site the following morning to visit the castle and continued later cycling on one of the most dangerous roads in Oman: heavy traffic, no shoulder and very narrow lanes.

Leaving al Rustaq after a rainy night
Leaving al Rustaq after a rainy night

Leaving Al Rustaq after a rainy night

Door frame decoration
Door frame decoration

DSCF6605

Lunch break
Lunch break
All you need: a shop where you can buy love or maybe birds or fish, a shop to repair bikes and a coffeeshop!
All you need: love, bikes and coffee

DSCF6641

DSCF6653

The Nakal castle in its full glory
The Nakal castle in its full glory

DSCF6745 DSCF6752 P1240548 DSCF6795

Back at the coast we called Salim again. In the meantime he had left for work in Sohar but he asked his brother Faris to pick us up to sleep at his place. The family lives on a small farm with different houses and we got our own house and were told to stay as long as we liked. The same evening Faris took us out for dinner and we made a big mistake. We paid the bill without him knowing and Faris got extremely upset about it. We thought it as a nice gesture for being able to stay at his place but Omani hospitality requires to take care of everything. We stayed two more nights, met the women of the family and a few more of Salim’s brothers and sisters, went to the beach and left on New Year’s Eve to Muscat without having seen Salim again.

At a small camel farm of one of Faris' friends
At a small camel farm of one of Faris’ friends

DSCF6869

At the souk
At the souk
At the fish market
At the fish market
On the way to the beach
On the way to the beach and next to the Royal Palace
At the beach
At the beach
With Faris and his mother
With Faris and his mother

DSCF7006

3 thoughts on “Dishdashas, Kumars and Massars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s