Went to Oman for Kuwait’s National Day

8 March 2014

Boy has it been hard to get back into the swing of things after the National Day break. It was very festive as the students gathered in the morning before school. Then we had a small ceremony assembly and continued with class. My last class only had 7 students present that day (Feb. 24).

girls decked out for National Day

girls decked out for National Day

IMG_2348

boys in their dishdashahs

The next day I was heading for the airport by 2:30 am and I was off to Oman via Dubai. A driver met us at the airport in Dubai and then drove us to Musandam.

Musandam

Musandam

Geographically, the Musandam peninsula juts into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Persian Gulf, from the Arabian Peninsula. The Musandam peninsula is an exclave (An exclave is defined as a portion of a country geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory.) of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. Its location gives Oman partial control, shared with Iran, of the strategic strait. In the northern section of Musandam, around Kumzar, the language is Kumzari, which is one of the south-western Iranian languages and related to Luri and Persian. The Musandam Peninsula has an area of 1,800 square kilometers (695 sq mi) and a population of 31,425 people. (Thanks to Wikipedia and I decided not to remove the links, just in case someone is so inclined to click them.)

Musandam is a picturesque region separated from the rest of Oman, with its scenery being quite attractive to tourists. Access to the peninsula was formerly rather difficult, with the only options being limited flights or a ten hour drive through four immigration posts.

They now have a very fast ferry between Muscat (the capital of Oman) and Khasab. It took us about 3 hours from Dubai by road. The last hour or so was carved out of the mountains that go right into the Strait. Crossing borders took a little bit of time too. We saw many camels as we were traveling through UAE and then more and more goats as we neared Oman. There were goats along the roadway and milling about at the border crossing.

piebald kid

piebald kid

Once we checked into our hotel and freshened up a bit, we were picked up at 2:00 pm to begin our adventure! It was a “mountain safari.” We visited a “Lock House” which was constructed by digging at least a meter down and then placing large jars to store water and dates. The walls were then constructed from the local rock and the doorway was only large enough for one person to crawl through. Lastly the roof was made of local wood poles, mud, and rock plates. The door was made of wood (though it was missing from the ones we saw) and had two locking devices (hence the name). This kept their supplies safe when they went to the coast during the summer.

Lock House, probably between 600-1000 years old

Lock House, probably between 600-1000 years old

looking down from about 900 meters at one of the khors (fjords)

looking down from about 900 meters at one of the khors (fjords)

small settlement as we headed higher up the mountain. There is also one at the top along the ridge

small settlement as we headed higher up the mountain. There is also one at the top along the ridge

Ancient stone houses nestled into the mountainside

Ancient stone houses nestled into the mountainside

Mohammad and me sitting on a stone wall next to a house

Mohammad and me sitting on a stone wall next to a house

Then we started up the mountains to look down at wadis and fjords (called khors here) and to see some of the ancient villages as well as newer ones.

sea fossils at about 1200 meters

sea fossils at about 1200 meters

rock art at about 2000 meters

rock art at about 2000 meters

this road leads back into UAE. This area is very remote.

this road leads back into UAE. This area is very remote.

It was very remote and not easy to access. The roads were rough. It appeared that a grader just pushed through to make the road. After rain, they were very rutted and there was no shoulder. It was rather harrowing several times to look out the window and feel like we were driving on air! We went up to almost 2000 meters and the view was amazing! The villages and landscape made me feel like I had stepped into the Old Testament of the Bible! After dinner and a bath, it was early to bed.

The next morning, pick-up was at 9 am and we were taken down to the docks. There were many dhows as well as speed boats lined up at the dock.

aboard the dhow

aboard the dhow

We climbed from dhow to dhow to reach the one that was taking us on our cruise for the day. Once all the passengers were settled and we were pulling out to sea we were offered tea or coffee and fruit. We motored lazily into the khors and had dolphins playing in our wake as well as rolling through the water looking for food.

dolphin playing alongside the dhow

dolphin playing alongside the dhow

Acacia trees show true grit growing out of the rocks.

Acacia trees show true grit growing out of the rocks.

Such rugged, majestic beauty

Such rugged, majestic beauty

This looked like a sea monster to me.

This looked like a sea monster to me.

Reflection

Reflection

Pilot of the dhow

Pilot of the dhow

There were also lots of jellyfish. We stopped at Telegraph Island. (In the 19th century, it was the location of a British repeater station used to boost telegraphic messages along the Persian Gulf submarine cable, which was part of the London to Karachi telegraphic cable. It was not an easy posting for the operators, with the severe summer heat and hostility of local tribes making life extremely uncomfortable. Because of this, the island is, according to some travel agents and journalists, where the expression “go round the bend” comes from, a reference to the heat making British officers desperate to return to civilization, which meant a voyage around the bend in the Strait of Hormuz back to India.[1]

Telegraph Island

Telegraph Island

People exploring ruins atop Telegraph Island

People exploring ruins atop Telegraph Island

Today, Telegraph Island is an eerie reminder of the British Empire. Abandoned in the mid-1870s, the island has remained deserted and only the crumbling ruins of the repeater station and the operators’ quarters can be seen. As tourism has grown in the Gulf region, so the island is regularly visited by dhows carrying tourists to view the ruins and to fish and snorkel in the waters around it. However, the intense heat (particularly in the summer months) endures.) Thanks to Wikipedia, again.

We jumped off the side of the boat to swim and tried to snorkel with equipment supplied by the dhow. The equipment was well used, so getting a good seal was difficult and snorkeling was cut short. The most plentiful thing I saw were spiny sea urchins, so you had to be careful about where you put down your feet! Once back aboard the boat, we had lunch and then proceeded further along the khors.

Even in such remote villages, accessible only by boat, there were electric poles and cables.

Even in such remote villages, accessible only by boat, there were electric poles and cables.

another little village along the shore

another little village along the shore

village in a cove

village in a cove

It was gorgeous. We got back to the hotel by about 4:30 and showered. Dinner was in “town” with a couple of other people met on the cruise who had a car. Then it was back to the hotel and early to bed again.

The next day also started at 9 am and back to the docks.  There was a cruise ship in the harbor this morning.

these cruise ships come in to Khasab twice a week

these cruise ships come in to Khasab twice a week

This time we were motoring about 3 hours (not at high speed) to Kumzar. This is a small fishing village of about 150 people.

anhinga swimming and gull diving

anhinga swimming and gull diving

the white on this rock is bird droppings...a well used hang out

the white on this rock is bird droppings…a well used hang out

more beautiful views from the comfort of cushions on the dhow

more beautiful views from the comfort of cushions on the dhow

crew cabin on the dhow to Kumzar

crew cabin on the dhow to Kumzar

It was a short walk from the dock into the village.

goats chilling on the beach in Kumzar

goats chilling on the beach in Kumzar

mosque number two

mosque number two

cobalt blue on one of the mosques in the small village

cobalt blue on one of the mosques in the small village

It was fascinating to see it up close, as yesterday we had seen many villages from afar. Then a small fishing boat took us back to the dock to reboard the boat and head back to Khasab.

Kumzari man and his sons who took us back to our dhow

Kumzari man and his sons who took us back to our dhow

Bye-bye Kumzar

Bye-bye Kumzar

On the way back to Khasab we saw this boat loaded with fish traps.

On the way back to Khasab we saw this boat loaded with fish traps.

Then along came a dhow loaded with fish traps.

Then along came a dhow loaded with fish traps.

Again we just had time to shower and eat and then head for bed.

The next morning was the city tour.

Mosque across the street from our hotel.

Mosque across the street from our hotel.

Sadly it was Friday so most things were closed, but we went through the castle/fort, which is now a museum.

Khasab Castle

Khasab Castle

Summer house

Summer house

Lock House

Lock House

Storage in the lock house. The darker part shows what is beneath ground level.

Storage in the lock house. The darker part shows what is beneath ground level.

Qura'an studies with both genders.

Qura’an studies with both genders.

Brides Room

Brides Room

Then we drove to an old, mostly abandoned Bedouin village where the local town seemed to keep many goats and chickens.

Goats at the edge of the Bedouin village

Goats at the edge of the Bedouin village

Decorative metal doors were everywhere.

Decorative metal doors were everywhere.

Along the roadway there was some rock art.

Then it was back to the hotel to pack, check out and begin the trek back to Dubai.

Atana Khasab Hotel on the road back to Dubai

Atana Khasab Hotel on the road back to Dubai

gardens around the Atana Khasab Hotel

gardens around the Atana Khasab Hotel

Our driver dropped us at the Dubai Mall where we met up with my cousin, Deborah. Next time I go to Dubai I hope to be able to stay with her as she most generously offered that.

Deborah and me outside the airport in Dubai

Deborah and me outside the airport in Dubai

After dinner in the mall, Deborah took us to the airport to head back to Kuwait!

I love Oman!  The people were overwhelmingly welcoming and friendly. It was also nice to see what appeared to be a more egalitarian society without the classist structure I see in most of the other oil rich countries. I would very happily move there, but I am not aware of many other schools that have positions such as “Readers Theater Teacher” and I like it enough I will stay in Kuwait for now.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen Manning
    Mar 16, 2014 @ 21:20:12

    Amazing! I still can’t get over how arid it is there and how people have learned to survive in such a dry enviroment. The Piedmont is going to seem like the tropics when you come back…which is when? Miss you so much!!!!!!! Love always, Ellen

    (`v) `*..* .*.**) .**) (.* (.* .* .*`*.*

    Ellen Manning Carrboro Elementary 1st Grade Classroom Teacher

    “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” *Mary Oliver*

    Reply

  2. adriannedawn
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 01:24:23

    What a wonderful adventure! I finally finished reading through your post and I love seeing the pictures and hearing about all of your adventures. I love you so much Mom!

    Reply

  3. Julie Smith
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 05:49:08

    My Gosh Pam!!! Your Blog is just absolutely incredible!!!!:) I can’t believe with all you do that you actually have time to keep updating the site!! 🙂 It is just so great to hear and see all that is going on in your life abroad!:) I love your detailed posts and the pics etc! What an incredible experience for you!!!~~~ Keep up the fantastic work, and can’t wait to read more! 🙂 We love and miss you!!

    Reply

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