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Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3

From the south and Diary 2, I now return to the north.
I get an early start, and with a full chai-mug, I enters the flat and eventless desert of the central Oman. After a couple of hundred kilometres, I see a small sign, showing off to al Zamayim Dunes, and why not? Well, because it is a real bad track, but now I can see the dunes in the horizon, and they look great!
I get to them, and walk quite some around, enjoying them, while I try to figure how to capture them on camera. As I re-enter the highway, I spot what must be the grandmother of dunes, way out to the other side. I drive right out on the sand, and it is easier to drive on, than the gravel-road. At least, till am close: Then the car kind of sink-in. I leave it there, and get some photos of the giant. If you can talk about a dune have female forms, this one sure does. Not a sole around, and I have to get the car free myself.

I make it back the the sealing, and here are a lot! They do not re-seal the road around here, they just build a new one parallel to the old. Convenient when you build and drive, but it does not look good in the surroundings, which should be nature.
Half way, I pass the first gas station, but I can't spot the coffee-house. Well, it is only 250
kilometres to Nizwa anyway. Soon after, there start to be a hint of green along the road. The usual suspects, but in some odd combinations. The Acacias are dead while the small bushes and annuals stand strong and green.
At one place, each plant have its own little dune.
It start to be even greener, although it is still the desert dwellers which can be seen.

I reach the low mountains, and then some towns along the Muscat highway. Then I reach Nizwa at noon, and figure I might as well find the hotel. I kind of planned it a couple of days ago, but now my GPS leads me out on some unsealed roads, among new buildings. I end up in front of a house without a single letter on. Inside, none is found either. The booking confirmation have a GPS address, but it is 1,2 kilometres away, and does not look like the spot on the map.
I drive there, but none have heard of anything. A school bus driver kindly offers to call, and I end up meeting a young man on a bike, at the main road intersection. He leads me right back to the building without letters. I get a big apartment on third, with all I need and a great view from the porch. I drop the bag, and head into town.
It is a lovely town: Nice houses, large palms all over, the near and clean mountains and the general atmosphere. In-between some of the houses, the mountains with their few plants seem completely undisturbed.

Here, Nizwa should have a fort and a suq quite close. I find the fort, and it is big and round! Some fancy cars are parked outside, and I figure members of the international tourist conference on minister level are visiting. I head around, and find a absolutely marvellous old clay town. Not all houses are used, but here are life. Their small palm-meadows look great, and the raw clay, forming the houses are so autistic.
I do many loops before I get to the suq. It is brand new, divided into vegetables, goats and alike. Common for all are; they are closed.
Back at the fort, I kind of sneak in by the back door, and get to se most, before I'm kicked out - politely. Then I find a bite to eat, and as I figured by the two souvenir shops, the prices in the restaurant confirm: Here are tourists occasionally.

I find my way back to the car through the closed city. I can't figure why it is closed though. There are no activity around the mosques. Anyway, the barren but low mountains, surounding the town most be explored. I find a few roads leading into them, and make several walks. Her are not any interesting plants, but the rocks - looking like granite in some places, defiantly marble in others, are interesting. 
I find what could be a graveyard in a valley. Stone are standing, and small mounts are made of the rocks. In the surounding hills, I find a lot of pottery, of which some seems ancient. Here are also several different types of marble, all sand-blasted into entreating figures.
The sun vanishes behind the mountains, and I find a place to have supper and stock some more chai. Then it is home to work as usual.
The photos of the day is in:
Day 9: Up to Nizwa

14. It ought to be a short driving day, but never the less, rich on adventure. I start with the suq, round the corner in Nizwa, as I'm going to pass anyway. They open after eight, and I see some of the old clay houses once more. It is  a slightly cloudy day, and the pictures might be better.
I also find the old, original suq, which is way more interesting. I buy some alun crystal, and make a lot of photos. Then the new suq grandly opens, and I see the vegetables, where the goats should have been, the dates - and they have a lot different ones, fish and spices.
Two young Omanian men ask for a selfie, and I get a portrait of them. Another time, I get to make a picture of some of the onion dealers, but the locals are not that keen on having their photo taken.

After I think most have opened their shops, I head on. The rough plan is a tour cross the mountains to the sea, and I have a few sights on the way. Additionally, I make many botanising stops, although I fail to find anything new or interesting.
Where I yesterday explored the low rocky hills around the city, I now enters the true mountains. Here are quite some vegetation, Acacias being the dominating. Here are some clouds on the sky, adding their part to the motives.
As I assent, the vegetation slowly vanishes, and some volcanic rock seems to start.

As the road start to follow a large valley, old clay guard towers starts to appear. I do a long walk in the river bottom, but it is mainly Acacias' thorns I pick-up. Here are some other trees as well, some have quite a size. I find a fantastic metallic-green bee in one of the few flowers.
Here are a few goats, but considered how green here are, I would have expected way more.

The next stop is at a narrow gorge, formed in black marble. It look great with some real nice bushes in, but I lack the sun. The marble have been formed by both rain and sand through time, and wonderful formations have been created.
A sign show off to al Hoota Cave, but it is a bit touristed for me. A cable car head into the cave at some point. I rather see some unspoiled nature, and here are a lot! In some of the narrow valleys, oasis are found, mainly with palm trees.
In a little village, I actually see a tractor! Many of the houses are, like the watch towers, made of clay. The mountains in the area is kind of volcanic shaped, and I think I find granite some places.
One meadow have oranges - well fenced in.

I passes through a larger town, then start the assent up the big mountains. Here, the black marble is back, and it is truly formed by both water and sand. The road I follows lead up to a special village; Misfat al Abriyyin. Where the other villages used to be made of clay, this one was made in rocks.
It follow the valley, giving room for oasis after oasis. Only one thing is missing; the sun! I have been so spoiled the last couple of weeks, it seems.
Besides from the countless date palms, here are even bananas and corn. I do a long walk down in the bottom of the gorge - mainly because I get lost.

I give up, getting the sun on the main cluster of houses, and head on. It is almost barren and very black mountains, but new bust starts, having wide and lush leaves. I have to get down to the valley to find the road, leading up to Jebel Akhdar. It pass a 2000 meter pass, turn into gravel, and head through the narrow gorges in the high mountains.
It offers so many astonishing views, although half the mountains are in the shadow, the other half in mist. The trail follow the mountains side, and offers no room for mistakes. In some stretches, it is so steep, I have to gain momentum to get up. In other places, it falls, hiding under the hood of the car.
I meet a few of the locals, all in relatively new 4x4. They have small oases along the road in the lover places.
It feels like it will continue forever, but I enjoy the ride.
In one place, the mountain look like wood. It could be sledge, but I don't stop to check.

The lower part is easier to drive, but it still follow some enormous mountain walls, although here, the sun reaches the ground. After almost 100 kilometres, I reach the sealed road on the other side. I am heading for Wadi Bani Kharus, and on the way, I pass al Awabi Castle. Wadi Bani Kharus is a disappointment after the long and amassing mountain drive, and I turn around soon.
Now, I have have to drive back inland to Bahla. Either through the gravel road or the highway. The highway is an additional 200 km, but faster. And considered it will be dark before I reach Bahla either way, I chose the highway. First a bit along the coast south, aliened with almost barren sand dunes, and rather dull. Then through a more gentle part of the major mountains. The traffic is rather intense, and I'm tired when I reach the hotel in Bahla.
Day 10: Nizwa Suq, Misfat al Abriyyin, Jebel Akhdar

15. I start the day with the hotel's breakfast for once. It is not impressive at all, but included. Then I drive to the Bahla Castle, which is impressive. I walk around it, but skip the inside. Instead, I do a loop around in the nearby clay town. It could do some mending by now!
I do not expect much from the small suq, as it is Friday. But I'm so wrong! It is packed with Omani men in traditional dresses, some even with their daggers. It is the goat market day, and everyone who is some one, is here, even a few women, warring the northern masks.
The men stand in two circles around the big tree on the central square. The goats are led around in the circle and a lot of shouting is involved. It seems like the goats are the ones, taking it the most calm. I make a lot of photos, and try to figure how the sale is done.

Then I make a few loops around the rest of the suq, and see the black-smiths working over coal, the fish-mongers cutting up tunas, the farmers selling vegetables and a few other open shops. Another loop in the clay town, now with higher sun, and then gas the car and fill the tea mug, and I'm off.

The plan is to follow the northern border to Sohar, exploring the nature in this corner. The first part is rather barren gravel desert with quite some settlement. Then a few more scatted Acacias and bigger mountains on the sides of the valley.
Here are still some oasis with dates and crops, and they continue to Ibri. This city have another big fort with a clay town, and I do the loop. The suq seems to be closed, except from the tailors.

Outside of Sohar, the settlements disappears, and more sand and dunes starts. A few camels roams around, but I see no goats at all. The dunes are crossing the road, which look fantastic and feel bad. At a roundabout, I spot the little but well preserved Marjeb Castle on its hill. I stop - mainly to find lunch. It is after twelve on a Friday, and food is hard to come around. Al the men I saw gathered at the foot of the hill were NOT at the coffee-house, but the mosque.
As I re-enters the main-road, I chose the wrong path from the roundabout, and end in a narrow, one-way line to The Emirates! The nice officer say; "Just drive around the building". I do, but his college on the other side does not agree! A lot of talking, and I get bye.
Then, a bit further down the right road, a police-check in a brick-building make me wonder. But they assure me: I will remain in Oman. Right next to them is a open coffee-shop, and he can make me two vegi-burgers. Well, they are, as both French fries and ketchup are vegetables, right? Well, I needed them.

It is a great area, with nice small mountains, scatted vegetation and no humans. I climb some of the rouged hills and enjoy life - till I reach the next police control. I can't get right through, I have to enter their huge office and get a stamp? Here, long lines are waiting to get visas. A lot of talking give me a stamp on a piece of paper. That get another one, just to be collected by a third, while a forth go through my car. Welcome to Oman - from where???

The mountains are even better here. Some are twisted layers, others are colourful marble, looking like meat with fat. I stop at a dry river, and find signs on resent rain: A lot of small, green sprouts on the else so barren ground.
I reach Sohar at four, but the Atlas Hotel Apartments are not where they ought to be, accordantly to their map. It take me some fumbling around, but at least, the locals actually know them.
I get a nice and huge room, and head over to the huge Safeer Mall, a bit further down the service road. It is still Friday, and this is the only place I can expect to find any "action". And here are quire some, mainly foreigners: Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Asians and even a few Europeans. I go for a foot SubWay, just to try something NOT Indian.
Back at dusk to start the usual work.
Day 11: Bahla Castle, Goat Market, Ibri, Sohar

16. I start the day with the nearby Castle of Sohar. It dates back to 1300, but look well renovated. It is next to the beach, and I take a walk. The perfect sand is dotted with so many different shells and conks. Where these snail encasings use to be pale and worn down, here they are perfect. In a matter of fact, around 10% are still alive!
I can't help my self, I do a long walk, enjoying the beach.
Then I head up the northern coastal road, which is one long line of small fishing villages. It seems like everyone must have A: An old original Land Rover, B: A boat and not to forget, C: An old couch on the beach.

In the town of Liwa, it seems like they are having a small Saturday market. Here are hay, fish, vegetables and chickens. People are a bit shy, but friendly enough. On the way out of town, I pass their large Liwa Castle.
The next villages are a bit to the humble side; many houses seem vacant - or fallen over actually.
I find the beach several times, and it is just as nice.

Before I cross any borders, I turn around at the first sign of a permanent police control. I had hoped to be able to drive back south in the mountains, but the roads either leads into the Emirates or it is the inland highway.
I drive though flat Acacia land, and only have to do a few walks to determine: I have seen it all. When the sun disappears behind the clouds, I head for the beach once more.
I do some more walking in the sand, until it is time to find some supper. Then it is back to work. Just as I get started, it start to thunder, and the second lightning cuts the power. 

The bloody Caribbean Airways have altered its flights once more. I can either pay a substantial amount extra, and go 12 hours later (Trinidad-Texas-Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Barcelona-Copenhagen), or the day before for free (Trinidad-Texas-Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Barcelona-Copenhagen). I end up finding another route, Trinidad-Toronto-London-Copenhagen, only adding 1000 DKK to the price. But I have to pay it all now, and apply for a refund of the first ticket! Never EVER fly Caribbean Airways! And I just bought my US visa, now I have to apply for a Canadian! As the internet have returned, I try, but I get an error every time I try to pay. Wasted one hour, didn't get it.
The thunder is almost constantly, and from the sound of the rain to judge, I might get a clean car in the morning! Well, outside, I think I might have to do a bit shining-up inside, as it no longer look brand new - to say it least.
Day 12: Northern beaches, Castles, Acacias

17. The rain have more or less continued during the night, and some parts of Oman is flooded. I guess building sewers for a day or two a year is too much - and they probably turn out to be too small anyway. Another solution is to let it flood, and people seems to take it with the usually smile. They actually call it a great weather!
Bulldozers are clearing the highway for the palm stems and other debrief the crossing wadi has deposed, and traffic move quite well, despite the occasionally deep water.
A lot of locals have stopped at a highway bridge, crossing a wadi, and so do I. It is so strange to see the cascading river where there use to be dry desert.

I am heading for the Omani Botanical Garden, 30 kilometres outside Muscat. I find it easily, but it is closed! And no way I can sneak me pass the two guys, while they make selfies with me. Well, I can see it from a hilltop, and it does not look that impressive anyway.
Next on my list is the suq and harbour in central Muscat. The traffic is a bit intense, but I get there. I had found my GPS point in the narrow alleys, and they sure are! Before I realises, I'm deep in a maze of narrow, twisting and filled gabs in-between old, partly demolished buildings. I find a place to drop the car, and a friendly local advises me to close the window! I'm glad I did; the rain catches up.

A local leads me to the suq, and I wonder if I ever will be able to find my car? The maze is pedestrian only, and due to the clouds, I have lost any idea of direction. But; I end up in the suq.
Here are a pleasant mix of local and tourist shops, and even a few tourists. Some shopkeepers are partly closing their shops, tightening them with expansion foam. 
Then, before the rain hit this area, a river forms through the narrow alleys. Everybody take it with a smile, and the locals make photos. I spend most of that intense shower within the partly covered suq, but head outside when it only drizzles.

I know the harbour is nearby, and I simply follows the water down to it. Here are more tourists, and a few boats. Two in wood, two private-looking in the cruse-ship-class. Around the old city, the low mountains are dotted with lookout towers.
I rather see the more undisturbed mountains, miraculous find the car, and pass bye the hotel to the outskirts of town. It look like the town is getting buried under lava, but it is the other way around. The city is expanding, and rocks have to be blasted. I find some of the low, fat Commiphoras and a few other desert dwellers. Then it start to drizzle again, and I head back.
There are no open coffee shop or alike around the hotel, and I drive a bit back towards the centre. I end up with a half-baked, tasteless pizza, for the price of two ordinarily meals.

Planning involves the Norwegian weather forecast - for Oman. It seems like Sur should be dry tomorrow, and I have seen rain enough for now. The photos of the day: Day 13: Rain in Muscat

18. I get an early start, heading down the south coast. It is a nice drive to wadi Mayh, but the wadi itself is a disappointment. It might not have been it 14 days ago, but I have spoiled myself.
I head back to Muscat, passing the harbour and Sultan Palace, and find the south bound road, within land. The mountains starting within Muscat are impressive, and it is a great drive.
Then I find the way out to the old costal road. It is fare from sealed all the way, but it offers great access to cove after cove, and each of them are different. Some have dark sand, some colourful rolling rocks, some pebble, some ancient coral reef, some fine white sand, some dunes, some fishing villages, some snails and other sea creatures and so on.
I do so many stops, both to walk the beach, but also to explore some of the wadis. Some are dry, some have yellow clay-rich rivers, some are shallow, some real deep and narrow. Some of the desert plants, found on their sides have started to flower and sproughts.

I see quite some animals today. One of the first is a fearless Lesser  Sand Plover; Charadrius mongolus. Another a scary Grey Heron; Ardea cinerea. Then, just after passing the warning-sign, I see several Mountain Gazelles; Gazella gazella. At the same time, a giant Egyptian Vulture; Neophron percnopterus passes over the road.
And one of the coves have a lot of sea creatures, trapped in the pits of the rocks. Snake starfish, sea urchin, crabs, hermit crabs, gobies and some strange ones I can't place. 

In many of the coves, I gather a sample of its specials for a photo. In some, it is colourful rocks, some have shells, some polished black marble. One have a fantastic rainbow. I find a single green sand-dollar, some giant mussels, live snails and much more. A few donkeys and goats, but no camels at all.

Late afternoon, I finally make it to Sur, and drive straight to my hotel - mainly the wrong way through the one-way streets. None bothers. It is in the middle of the peninsular, and I head right out in the suq - which is just an area with shops. And the entire area is not that posh at all, but here are so many men, hanging out. The shops open after the five-o-clock prayer, and I find one street, dedicate to selling the traditional headwear; Kumma. I got a clear feeling of; this is NOT where the tourists normally come.
Day 14: The beach from Muscat to Sur

19. I start the day finding my way to the harbour of Sur - which is a challenge, as the city is located on peninsular AND on a bay around it. Anyway; I find some old wooden ships, a light tower, some small fishing boats on the sand and small huts along the beach. I can't help myself, but I just have to collect a few more shells at the beach. Then I pass the little fort and some warn-out buildings. The football lane is still flooded, and it look like a part of the harbour!

I head towards Muscat, but slowly; letting me enjoy the motives in the mountains. I do a few walks, but here are no new plants - only motives. I stop at a puddle to remove some of the mud and camel dung from the car - I'll hate that they should think; I have done any off-roading with it!
I stop bye in some of the small villages, but here are not that much to see - and not even a single coffee shop! I give an Indian barber a lift, and as always; karma kick-in, and I have a bad luck. This time, it is not the car that breaks down; it is my pans. I get a 30 centimetre crack in the back. That does not prevent me from doing mere stops along the road, but when I reach the outskirts of Muscat, I find a tailor. He is fare from eager to repair them, but at the same time, he understand my desperation, and he is a polite man.

Then I'm ready for the suq of Muscat. Which is more than can be said of it: I just made t to the midday brake; 13;30 to 16;00. Well, I can get milk-tea and have a look at the fortress and the harbour. I see some herons along all the seagulls in the harbour, and the funny looking tourists. I also admires the central suq: It is a huge and magnificent building. Each square have its own special roof construction, and the alleys have timber sealing with decorations.
I chat with some of the Indians and Bangladeshi people working there, and they are in general proud of Oman and the Sultan. He is apparently doing a great job.

As the shops reopens, I do a few loops, but fail to find anything I really want to owe. And as I am leaving tomorrow, I have managed to spend most money anyway. I just have what I need for food and tea. I gas the car on the way to the hotel, which is close to the airport. And who do NOT accept credit card as payment for a first. I have to find an ATM and pay the ridiculous fee to withdraw a bit of cash.
At least, here are several coffee shops and restaurants in the area, and as usual, I find vegetarian food easily. Not the huge problems I had in the Buddhist countries of Myanmar, Cambodia and Taiwan! But the amount of Indians does the trick, I think. Day 15: Sur, mountains, Muscat Suq

20. A slow start on the day, as I'm not really going to accomplice anything else, than fly to Kuwait at 14;05. I finish the slideshows: THE HIGHLIGHTS OF OMAN  and try to sort out the way too many plant photos by adding the way to few names I have to go around.

Oman was a special treat, and way more interesting than I had hoped for. I feel I have been able to see the most, even rain! I have driven 6305 kilometres and taken 3799 photos. Due to the roundtrip I'm doing on the Arab Peninsular, it turned out to be fairly cheep:

Flight 1.226 164
Car 3.261 437
Insurance 300 40
Visa 335 45
Food 876 117
Hotel 3.051 409
Gasoline 1.628 218
Stuff 126 17
10.803 1.448

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3