19 January – 13 February, 2016 – We left Nizwa in the late morning and shortly afterwards we also left the highway to cycle through small villages and old abandoned villages. Every Omani gets a plot of land in the village they grew up and they usually rather build a new house than keep an old one. A very unfortunate development we noticed everywhere, people don’t really appreciate the old if it comes to objects. It’s the contrary if it comes to people. Grown and married children continue living with their parents and most houses are full of life with several generations living under one roof. The younger ones take care of the elderly, grandparents take care of their grandchildren and everybody seems to be happy this way. Parents are well respected and always have the last word. We once got invited by an Omani to his old house and he mentioned that he had built a new one but cannot live in it, because his father doesn’t want to move.
Our next longer stop was Al Hamra, a town consisting of many different villages. On day one we walked through a seven kilometer long wadi on an ever winding road with spectacular canyon views to a lonely village consisting of a few houses. The next day we cycled up to Jabal Shams, the highest road in Oman at around 2,000m with a dramatic vista of a 1,000-meter-deep canyon called the Grand Canyon. From there we could see the tiny houses of the village we walked to the day before. It took us six hours for an amazing and mind-blowing 40km-cycle up the stunning mountains and even without luggage we had to walk our bikes several times. Oman has unbelievably steep roads.
A beautiful walk through a wadi:
Cycling up the highest road in Oman:
After a day’s rest we continued our journey along the mountain range, enjoyed Omani and Western hospitality through Warm Showers (an organization of people offering a place to sleep, to shower and often as well to eat for free), visited beautiful forts and castles along the way and two Unecso World heritage sites. The latter were tombs from about 2000 years ago, where one would assume that there are signs, entrance fees or at least a few explanatory signs. The first sight was already difficult to find as there were no sign posts at all. Once we had found it, we could just climb up the hill and look at the beehive tombs. The second site was even more difficult to find, we only noticed it because of a tiny brown sign stating that this was an archaeological site. Very bizarre!
At the Bahla fort – a Unesco World Heritage site:
More sightseeing in and around Bahla:
Jabreen castle – another World Heritage Site:
On the way to Al Ayn and Bat to see the beehive tombs:
Having visited many historical sites and having enjoyed the luxury of staying at houses it was time for us to cross the mountain range back to Sohar at the coast, go camping again and make use of the many free wilderness campsites along the way. In Sohar we finally met Salim again, who invited us to a delicious fish meal at the fish market. This time we had to say our final goodbyes to another great Omani we had met on the road.
Now we wanted to visit Musandam at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, a remote and rugged part of Oman separated from the rest of the country by the UAE. Cycling there was impossible for us as we couldn’t leave Oman and re-enter the same day on one visa as immigration laws require a gap of at least 30 days in between. For us the only way to get there was to take the bi-weekly ferry to Khasab. While looking for the cheapest ferry option we noticed, that there were Omani Warm Shower hosts close to the harbor about 60km north of Sohar. Happily we cycled along the coast, stopped at a gift shop to buy some chocolate for our soon-to-be-hosts and were welcomed by Khalid, shown into our room, got a delicious lunch served before we were left alone to be able to rest. Hospitality at its best! Khalid, his friends and family spoilt us the coming days and we started to feel heavily embarrassed for all their goodness and generosity. We went sightseeing in the area, each day accompanied by some other friends of the family, they paid for our ferry tickets even though we tried everything to pay ourselves, and to our biggest embarrassment we noticed that they had even paid for first class tickets. And as if that wasn’t enough after a full board accommodation and other treats we got more presents the evening before our departure: Johan a T-shirt and a scarf and I an Omani dress (which I left behind for practical reasons).
With our Warm Showers hosts in Shinaz:
After a 4-hour ferry journey we disembarked in Khasab and pitched our tent at the huge beach just outside of town where we spent a full week. We made friends with another German couple ‘residing’ there as well in their camper van. We discovered the area by bike and by boat, watched dolphins during our little cruise around the peninsula and saw a stingray swimming along the full length of our beach. Every evening at around 5pm between 20 and 50 small speed boats left the harbor – Iranian smugglers who had to leave Oman before nightfall. During the day we could see small trucks with all kinds of goods arriving at the harbor and we knew they were destined for Iran. Furthermore we collected shells, enjoyed the sea, built a fence around our home, got annoyed with people being noisy in the middle of the night, got even more annoyed with people throwing garbage carelessly on the beach, smiled at the thousands of cruise tourists arriving almost every other day with their huge cruise boats and just enjoyed our last days in beautiful Oman.