| GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)|
The Sultanate of Oman is an Unitary parliamentary
absolute monarchy, covering 309.500 square kilometres in-between the Gulf of
Oman, the Arabic Sea, United Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is the home to
4.748.417 citizens, of which 86% are Muslims, 6,5% Christians and 5,5%
The currency is Rial, worth 16,31 Danish Krone and €2,19. The GDP is
Oman receives little rainfall, with annual rainfall in Muscat averaging 100
millimetres, falling mostly in January. In the south, the Dhofar Mountains
area near Salalah has a tropical-like climate and receives seasonal rainfall
from late June to late September as a result of monsoon winds from the
Indian Ocean, leaving the summer air saturated with cool moisture and heavy
Among the larger mammals, here are some Cape hyrax, Procavia capensis,
Asiatic cheetah Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, Caracal, Caracal
caracal, Arabian leopard, Panthera pardus nimr, Common genet,
Genetta genetta, Striped hyena, Hyaena hyaena, Blanford's fox,
Vulpes cana, Ruppell's fox Vulpes ruppellii, Golden jackal,
Canis aureus, Gray wolf, Canis lupus, Mountain gazelle,
Gazella gazella, Goitered gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa, Wild
goat, Capra aegagrus, Nubian ibex, Capra nubiana along
with the Arabian oryx, Oryx leucoryx.
Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found in Oman,
but vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel
desert. I will in particular be looking for the
Ficus vasta and
which I have worked with, although they might be
hard to find? I hope I will find more interesting plants, especially in the
fare south-western part.
A short flight from
Bahrain bring me to Muscat. I get
visa, cash, water and a car within 50 minutes, and start exploring.
Considering how much I am going to drive, I have upgraded myself a bit
regarding the car. Budget upgrades me additionally, and I get a brand new
car: Not really what I hoped for (as I probably will "use it" quite some)
but hard to complain about!
I drive through the big and real modern city and find the southern coastal
road. Already before it clears the city, the mountains start. Here are huge
trees and perfect green areas along the road, although it is a desert. Must
take a huge amount of cleaned seawater! It is the Bandar Khayran road, and
it is an absolutely treat.
Soon, the buildings clear away, and it start winding its way through the dry
mountains. At first, it seems like they are barren, but a second look
reveals acacia bushes and in the lover part, several different herbs and
small bushes. It is in the end of the eleven months dry season, and many
have shredded their leaves.
I do several breath stops and a longer, perhaps in the
Wadi Mayh? Anyway, I see some real interesting plants, of which several is
actually flowering! Here are several cadavers of goats, and it seems like
here might be donkeys! They have taken their part of the herbs, I guess.
I follow the wadis to the
sides, and start climbing the rocks. It appears to
be mainly black marble, and only the acacias make it here. Here are several
species, and I document them along with the smaller bushes in the river
The roads splits up, and I chose the coastal road. It
leads through narrow gorges and I have to do some more botanising. An
Euphorbia look familiar - but so many look this way. A few small lizards
hides, but beside from them, I see no animals at all. Never the less, I will
have to watch-out for snakes in the rocks.
A strange wet area is found along the road, and it turns out to be the sea,
which reaches in at flood. I find an access to the bay, and it seems so
strange to see boats here. The sea is hidden behind the mountains, and I
can't get to it.
A but further up the road, I find a small village, and shop some buns and
bananas in their single shop. Another road leads towards the sea, and I give
it a go. It leads pass a mangrove area, and end up on a high hill,
overseeing a bay with perfect, blue water. Here are several caves - although
Back at the lagoon and mangrove, I find some new succulents. One of them
being real green, while the other is red.
I spot some small bushes with real fat stems on the
hillsides, and walk up there, hoping for a Burseraceae. They are all
dormant, only bearing a few fruits, and my guess is Commiphora
foliacea, C. kua, or C. quercifoliola. Leaves would have
been a help!
I continues before I get too many photos of them, and stop at a tiny fishing
village, which have a lot of goats
and some donkeys too. I find a cup of milk-tea, and walk down to the coast
through the old buildings. At the beach a few, small boats are fund along
with some ragged sheds. The beach, on the other hand look perfect. A single
crow sit on a pole, overlooking the water.
I walk back through the narrow and goat-dropping filled alleys, and try to
photos some, without offending the inhabitants.
The road is getting narrow, and I end up in gravel.
This coastal road terminates here, roughly 75 kilometres from Muscat. My
hotel is additional 75 kilometres further south - on the other side of the
mountains. I must go back through central Muscat to catch the southern road.
The sun is disappearing behind the mountains, and it is clear to me; I will
have to drive through the darkness. The road is great, although I could have
done without the speed-cameras each kilometre! The speed limits are changing
from 80 over 100 to 120 all the time, and the locals seem to be able to
remember each camera. I just have to stay focused. The sun disappears at
five, and half a hour later, it is pitch dark.
I reach the large city of Sur, and drive right to the hotel. It is the same
price-class as I used in the Emirates and Bahrain, but from the usual four
stars, it only have one. Well, the madras is good, it is fairly quiet and
clean, and here are hot water.
Next door is a restaurant, but the cook refuses to serve a meal without some
fried animal. The next one just say no
- I think, as English apparently are
not as common as in the Emirates and Bahrain.
I stock some bisques and bananas and a cup of tea, but just before I get
back to the hotel, a fifth restaurant lures me in. A real friendly Egyptian
persuade the cook to make me a salad, some homemade humus and steamed and
slightly spiced long rice. It is served with a homemade, slightly strong and
real tasteful sauce. Real delightful, and I only have to pay one rial! I
know where I go tomorrow, as I am going to stay in Sur for two nights.
Photos of the day:
Day 1; south of Muscat
6. I start the day, looping back the coastal
as I missed the last bit yesterday due to the lack of light. It is through
coastal mountains and tiny, sandy villages. I stop several times at the
perfect beach and collect a few shells. The road accent into the coastal
hills, and here are a great view over the deep-blue sea.
I drive through the little village of Tawi, and see a lot of birds on the
rocks in the bay. Cormorants, herons and seagulls at least. The opening of
the huge Wadi Shab is more or less hidden behind the highway bridge. Further
in, a wall close it, and it is in the shadows. Not what I have hoped for!
I return to Sur and find the 200 year old Bilad Sur
Castle, which turns out to be a classic desert fort.
I see a single Indian Roller, Coracias benghalensis and a group of
the invasive Ring-necked Parakeet, Psittacula krameri.
Back on the street, I pass a group of men, watching a truck with cattle on.
Can't be a good day for the cattle!
I find the
inland road towards the south, and make a lot of stops in the desert to
botanise. Besides from
several species of Acacia, here are quite some other
plants, and the scenery is fantastic. In the town of Al Kamil, I see some
mud-ruins, although I have no idea what they are.
I reach the ancient desert town of Jalan Bani Buali, but quite frankly, I
fail to find any interesting features. I do find the old and narrow alleys,
but the shops are quite modern, although small. A bit outside town, a large
area is filled with hay, which must be imported. I have seen a few
overloaded trucks on the highway.
From here, I
head out towards the sea through desert and dunes. Small sheets give shelter
for goats and shepherds, but besides from imported hay, here are not much for
them to eat.
When the road meet the sea, a few small villages occurs. Their alleys are
filled with sand, the mosque small, but some call it home. The beach is
perfect, and I find a few dead fish, conks and octopus things.
On the other side of the road, a new landscape is found. It is created by a
new plant, forming small hills by the shifting sand.
I try some of the sandy trails, but the shifting sand are a huge challenge
for the car - and me. Some areas are limestone, others ancient limestone:
Marble in different colours from greyish over red to black. I see some new
bushes, but it take me quite some time to find one with leaves, and it
even have flowers. It is the
I have hoped to find. In the same area, some other plants are flowering
as well, two being Fabaceae.
I pass some tents, which look like Bedouins, although a
bit permanent. A few goats are found around, but no vegetation at all. I
stop for tea in a tiny, one shop village, and drive down to the coast. Here,
the local fishermen are unloading their catch into pick-ups, which have
isolated boxes with ice.
I have 200 kilometres home, and the sun is getting suspicious low. I take
the coastal road the entire way to Sur, and do several stops on the way. One
are have huge sand dunes, another old sandstone, torn around to strange
I have seen some camels way out on the fields, but here; they are close to
the road. Actually; they cross it right in front of me. As the sun decent,
the landscape is covered in a warm, red colour. The last bit back to Sur is
in darkness, and I almost hit a lake on the road. Apparently, the high-tide
floods the road?
Supper at the same place, and they torch in a few delicatessens. Back to
work, plan and sleep.
Photos of the day: Wadi Shab, Bilad Sur Castle,
Jalan Bani Buali, coastal road, dunes.
7. I'm up early, while it is still dark, but I
have a long journey in front of me. I gas the car, then start with the 200 kilometres along
the coast, I finished up with yesterday. Then I continue along the cost to
the island of Masirah. From here, it is inland to Haima. I do many stops on
the new part of the costal road, and every time, I find a new plant or two.
Most areas are flat with two or three different succulents. Other areas have
Acacias, while some are more rocky. Again, I find flowers in several of the
Here are a few scatted fishing villages, some have a single coffee-shop -
selling tea and sandwiches. In some places, the tea is just a Lipton bag in
a tiny paper-cup , added can-milk. In others, it is pre-made Chai, made on
milk and added spices like cinnamon or actual masala.
After the road passes the island of Masirah, it turns inland, and follow the
coast 10-30 kilometres in. Here are no more settlements, except from some
rare tents or shelters. The landscape changes slightly, and I find some new
Where the road meet the inland road, a tiny town offers petrol and
Bangladeshi lunch. I go for both, although it is only eleven. But you never
know when you get the offer again, in these remote parts!
The road towards Duqm have dunes and small rocky
the road meet a ridge, I go exploring in a canyon. It have some great
motives and a little woody plant I can't recognise. While this ridge were
made from black ancient coral reef, the next is made from bright white
Then, a single oasis is found right next to the road. It have grasses, palms
and even fish in the salty water.
The plants are getting more and more scares, but the lover parts have quite
some Acacias. Actually, to see it is a lover part of this flat landscape,
one have to look for Acacias.
While I photo the minute flowers of a Euphorbia-looking Asclepiadaceae, a
flycatcher land right next to me.
I don't see many birds; a single crow and seagulls at the most.
The last 200 kilometres are kind of dull: The landscape
is completely flat, and here are barely any plants. A sign show of to Al Wusta Wetland Reserve. It is a washing-board road, and when I look at the
map, I figure there are 50 kilometres to the coast. Not today!
I speed, and reach Haima
at five, after 730 kilometres. It is a tiny town at a junction, and the
major part is the L shaped building at the gas station. I gas the
can't pay, as I'm out of cash. The nearby bank have an ATM, and I pay my
Here are several Super Markets, and I try one. To my big surprise, it is
significantly more posh, than the one I have at home! I find a thermo mug
with a lit for my endless line of teas, and even some muesli, which I have
given up on.
I do a big loop around town. It is a new town, finding its feet, it seem.
Huge areas are barren sand, and a few other shops are found scattered among
A Bangladesh owed restaurant serve me two great veggie-burgers and a double
tea in my new mug for one rial.
The sun is descending, and I head home to work.
Day 3: The eastern coast, northern half.
8. I am heading further down south. The first 100
kilometres is through an almost bight white desert without any plants. Then
it turn into a light brown desert with a few plants. Then I pass a shallow
wadi right after the village of Shelim, and here are plants to be found.
Even a few, black beetles run around on the rocks. I make a short stop at
here, to stock chai. A bit further on, the oil-drilling start, and the plants
almost vanishes. I meet some huge trucks, but apparently not the biggest:
The electrical wires have warnings; "15 m" - I like to see that truck!
I turn out towards the sea on a 50 kilometre long gravel road. The first
part is more smooth than a sealed - the rest not! I pass a single colony of
what look like a plant that have renegadeed a nursery. But not only does it
thrive here; it is covered in large flowers!
After 300 kilometres, I reach the sea and the low mountains, made from
limestone and ancient coral reef. This is where adventure and botany starts!
Here are sinkholes and I explore several, as they have their own vegetation.
One have a strange vine, but unfortunately without leaves. Another plant
puzzles me; it does have leaves, but I have no clue to which family it
belong. It have small hooks on the end of the lush, green and almost
At first, I drive along the mountains, and although
here are hardly any plants, the motives with the ancient limestone are
great. Then, the road cuts right through them, and the endless of layers are
revealed. Then the road cut down to a plain with camels and acacias, before
it meet the sea .I do a few stops along the beach. Here are perfect sand,
quite some dead fish and only a few shells. A small village offers chai, but
Then the mountains meet the sea, and the road is cut right into them,
all the way to the top. The vegetation changes and I start doing long walks.
It is a rather new road, and they have even made parking at the obvious
view-points. And here are a lot! I do some drives off-road, and up on a tall
hill, I find some amassing ancient corals and a lot of black flint. And the
view are absolutely amassing!
Among the rather few plants, I re-find the really sticky
Lamiaceae. Here, it is almost bonsai-like. The limestone is in all
kind of stages, worn down by ancient rain and petrified. Out to the east,
the deep blue sea is visible. A deep canon is cut through the limestone, and
the layers are clear.
Then one huge canyon is replaces by one even bigger and more amassing. Here
are only a very few plants, but I have to
stop a lot of times, just to get
"the perfect motive".
As I reach the upper plateau, some larger
emerges. One look like a suspicious fat Acacia, but I only see a few. They
do not appear to be animal pruned. Then I realises; I have found the true
Commiphora myrrha. It is one of the primary trees used in the production
of myrrh, a resin made from dried tree sap. Where I find a few other of the
fat Commiphora sp. all dormant, most of the C. myrrha are
almost in full growth. They tend to grow just below the edge of the
mountains, and are a bit hard to get to.
On the plateau, the vegetation is surprisingly like the
one in the plains. But the views down the huge
canyons to east, and the slightly green to the west are fantastic. That
said, it is depressingly how alike all the "great" photos look in the
Then, on the edge of one of these giant cliffs, I find what look like a
butter-cup flower? Additionally, it have some strange, white fruits. A
couple of canyons later, I find another strange plant I can't place. The
next canyon have a wildly flowering Acacia, which attract flies and even
butterflies - the first I see.
Nearby, someone have planed to harvest the resin of the C. myrrha:
The stem have some nasty brushings and cuttings.
As the road - and mountains - reach the sea, an oasis
sits on the point. Here are several camels, palms and I wished I could spend
a bit more time. However, all the time I saved speeding in the dull parts
are lost in the 100 kilometres of mountains - and then some! Then I reach
the coolest resting place ever! A mushroom-shaped rock offers shade for the
cars and people, at a fantastic viewing point.
I reach the sea at Hasik, and despite the entire beach is
in the shadow of the mountains, I make a short stroll on the rolling rocks.
It look so much like Stevns Klint in Denmark. Here are numerous and
different shells and other animal debris. I turn into Hasik for gas and chai,
and head straight on towards Taqah. The GPS guess on two hours, 45 minutes,
but I only have 90 minutes of daylight left, and I would like to check-out
the fort, while I'm there.
I shift mode from photo- and botanising mode to race, and the road along the sea
and then through the mountains are a thrill! I must have been designed by
Herman Tilke! The few, slow locals are easily passed, only a few camels
crosses the road, and I reach the fort with five minutes of daylight to
spare. I'm glad I see it now, instead of driving 50 kilometres back in the
morning: It is not interesting at all.
Only 50 kilometres to my booked hotel in Salalah. It turns out to be an
entire apartment with two bedrooms, a living room, two toilets and a
kitchen! I grab supper at a nearby coffee-house, and with a mug of chai, I
head home to work on the 500 photos of the day.
They end up with 164 in a slideshow. It is a pity; the more I
experiences, the shorter the diary get!
From the north, I now enters the southern Oman in