Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sohar, Oman

We were given a 5 day holiday for Eid, a big surprise for us on Tuesday when we came to work. It took very little time to readjust our plans and look to what we might do to fill in the break. I did think of Egypt but it's been pretty hectic here lately and I felt like I needed some time at home.

Last night I spent time with Georgina and Philippa, Nina's kids who I spend time with when I need some kid time. We piled in the car with Heather and her girls early this morning and set off for an adventure. And an adventure it was. It all started at the first border post into Oman. I thought the man had told me to do something impossible due to the big metal ramp thing coming out of the road blocking my way so I went on a bit further and did a U turn over a low median strip. Sirens sounded, were they for me?

Well maybe! We then found our way to the Sohar road, onwards in the heat after misjudging how much time the first border crossing would take. There was worse to come. At the second border crossing about half an hour into the journey to the beach we struck a few difficulties. Apparently you're not allowed to take other peoples children out of the country. Go figure, we just wanted to go to the closest beach, that's in another country.

New Zealanders can come and go in Oman with no problems, no visa needed, a quick stamp at no cost. Those on UK passports, that is all the others in my car, had to fill in forms and pay for visas. They let me take Nina's two girls through after some fast talking and offering to call her to so they could check it was okay. Lots of smiling and shukrans and we were in the car.

Customs next, nope we don't have that piece of paper. Back we go to the first men, sorry they say heres that piece of paper. Through customs onto the final check, the police check. Did I mention that we ended in the wrong place, the truck lanes and I had to do a U turn then drive the wrong way down the truck lanes? I was rather hoping there were no trucks coming and that we wouldn't get arrested for once again breaching Omani border protocols. Heather was by this time giggling nervously, the kids just wanted to be there as kids do.

The nice young policeman and I had a conversation about insurance, apparently I needed all my papers to go any further. Nope, they were at home somewhere. After some time and lots of smiling sign language, I finally had to go back to the men in the immigration building, again, and buy a weeks Omani insurance. Done, and 80 dirhams lighter off we went through all the check points again, the men beaming after this silly woman.

Onwards to the beach which we found after driving along beside it for a while then asking at a Shell station. Luckily Heather had enough Arabic to do so. We pitched the tent on the beach as the girls raced to the sea. We thought we'd picked a good place, away from the main roads and houses. It's still Ramadan so we wanted to keep the fact we were eating hidden. Just look where we pitched the tent, when the call to prayer sounded we realised it was not the best spot but it is hard to miss being near a mosque in this place. The picture tells this story.

The other story was the amount of crabs on the beach, totally amazing really. They build these big sand piles as they dig out their holes. The beach was covered in sand towers and they scrambled out when we were in the water and ran down the beach, an amazing sight. I rushed as quietly as I could to capture this. I got some photos with my long lens, they hid when I got close.

The trip home was hot and uneventful with border man saying that we should stay longer than a day next time, I agree. I love Oman, it's so very different from the UAE and only a short drive away. We came back a different way, a different border crossing, didn't think I should show my face at the other one. It seemed quicker too so will go that way on future adventures.

Tomorrow I'm off to Abu Dhabi then onto Liwa to see Sue in the high dunes, looking forward to finally getting there.

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