After visiting Sur, we turned north-east along the coast toward Muscat. Our plan was to stop for lunch in Wadi Tiwi.
The shore was mostly unpopulated although there were a few building developments. Numerous wadis come down from the mountains to the Gulf of Oman. Most were dry, but some had water.
Unfortunately I forgot to reset my camera after the visit to the boat builders, so almost all of the pictures I took along the road were too overexposed to be saved. This one was actually taken after our lunch stop. While in Sur we passed some extraordinarily lavish villas built along the beach. Although most of what we saw in Oman appears to be egalitarian in housing with few slums and fewer "gated communities," I expect that the beach villas in Sur were not awarded by lottery as we were told most places were.
After we pulled off the freeway and drove through a village to reach the wadi, we made a short rest stop where the stream met the sea. There were ducks in the reeds and other small critters occasionally visible.
Mikey, our driver, said that he and his friends often take a week off and come fish not far from here. The fishing is very good.
We drove quite a ways back along the stream. We passed numerous Omani families picnicking in the shade along its banks. Much of the time the road was one-lane and very twisty as it passed outcroppings. Since there were five of us, if we met oncoming traffic, it had to back up until we could get past. Strength in numbers!
Our destination was a large parking area by the stream. There is much more to this wadi, but our time was limited.
There were numerous houses on the other side with holiday merry-makers.
The Desert Camp had provided box lunches with fruit, sandwiches and other snacks -- enough for a feast. Our guides provided the rug for us to sit on in the shade of this large tree. We were told what kind it was, but I've forgotten.
After dropping us off, the drivers piled into one of the cars and returned to the village for their own lunch in a seafood restaurant. I expect their meal was better than ours. Mikey pointed out the place as we returned to the freeway and it looked like a candidate for the crummy but good column. He said it had some of the best eats along the coast. A disadvantage of group tours is that the dining is less than adventurous.
After lunch there was time to walk along the wadi. I was fascinated by the banana flowers. The teardrop-shaped red blossoms are edible, but take careful preparation. I'll just stick with the fruit!
Although there were also houses along the stream banks, this was more typical of what we saw elsewhere in Oman: the dwellings high above possible floods with planting areas in terraces down the hill.
Our guides said that these families had probably owned and farmed this land for generations.
I couldn't tell if this was a dwelling or a storage facility for the farm. If a dwelling, it was unoccupied. The location was very picturesque by the stream.
I was amused by the various ways folks were using the holiday. The couple on the rock in the middle of the stream were examining their selfies like vacationers the world over. The three men, on the other hand, were digging cobbles out of the stream, loading them into sacks, and relaying them to (I think) a truck in the bushes alongside the road. We saw this elsewhere too with both sand and cobbles. I expect that the stones were destined for building projects.
There was a house in the trees across the stream where holiday-makers were having a grand time chatting and laughing.
Harry just can't keep away from the water! It wasn't deep enough here to go swimming, but he promptly waded out to mid-stream to bask in the winter sun.
Just before we left the wadi our guide asked if we wanted to see a frankincense tree. Since it was almost Christmas and the probable source for the frankincense in the Christmas story was Oman or nearby Yemen, of course we said yes.
The best frankincense comes from the south of Oman near Salalah, but this lonely tree stands along a road near the freeway to Muscat. The resin is harvested like maple sap: the bark is slashed and the resin oozes out slowly to be collected later. Unlike maple sap it doesn't need further processing, but is simply graded and sorted by quality.
These trees can survive in the harshest conditions. There is even a collector who has managed to grow the trees in Arizona.
Our trip was almost over. After leaving the tree, the motorcade split up with the various cars taking different routes to the airport. The other couple sharing our car was staying an extra day and Stanford had booked them a night in a resort hotel south of Muscat. Mikey knew a "short cut" to the hotel and soon left the freeway to head down another wadi. The road started out paved and then was drifted over with sand and then became frankly dirt. Signs of habitation became fewer, but Mikey had never led us wrong.
Finally we reached the beautiful coast. The Barr Al-Jissah Resort sits on the spit of land jutting out into the sea. The small harbor filled with luxurious yachts is for the use of well-heeled guests who choose to arrive that way. Our companions were a bit overwhelmed by it all!
Mikey explained that there are three levels of accommodation here from the most exclusive to merely lavish. Our friends were booked into the low-rent establishment.
We bade good-bye to our traveling companions. They live in Scottsdale, AZ, when at home, so the climate and the landscape were very familiar to them. They would be picked up in the morning for their flight home.
On our way to the airport we passed numerous enclaves built into the valleys and inlets. Muscat is a large city both in population and area with many neighborhoods like this as well as more typical urban landscapes.
We arrived at the airport at dusk and reconnected with our fellow travelers who had arrived before us. The country is building a new airport that will be open shortly. I hope it is more accommodating. Since none of us were traveling on Oman Air, we had to wait until three hours (give or take) before our scheduled departure before checking in. While waiting we took over a couple of tables at the food court. Once we could get past security we had access to the business class lounge and more comfortable surroundings!
I think our plane was the last to depart (at 00:25) so we got to send our companions on their various ways home. It was a great adventure!
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