This weekend we decide to head to the desert for a change of scenery
Never could have told you 2 years ago WHERE Oman was much less WHAT it was. Here's what we've learned...
Called Sultanate of Oman it boarders Yemen, UAE and Saudi. It is actually split into 2 parts, the larger section bordering the Arabian Sea and the itty bitty part, the Musandam Peninsula which is where we went, is separated from the rest of the country by the UAE and juts out into the Strait of Hormuz. Which happens to puts us the closest we've every been to Iran. (i can imagine the thoughts swimming through your head right about now, but really it's all good.) We are able to reach Musandam by car in about 2 hours.
Within those 2 hours the scenery changed from powdery cinnamon colored sand
to craggy mountains
with patches of natural oasis
Through our windshield we spotted goats running amok through a market square, typical roadside markers
warning us of upcoming camels
(Warning of Speed Bumps Ahead NOT camels)
AND a new sign..
It took us 1 1/2 hours to get through the Oman boarder with only 10-15 cars in front of us. Oman is more traditional and strict with Shari'a law which would explain why the gentleman ahead of us had to turn around and go back from whence he came all because of a little blue cooler of beer discovered in the back of his car. Officers opened our bags and rummaged around our trunk. One officer took my camera away when he saw me snap a picture of the "Welcome to Oman" sign. i attempted to jokingly protest but he said i had to erase the picture. Seriously?! Yes, Sir! Camera was returned, picture not.
(Hindsight, we think it may have been an attempt to exercise his authority in a humorous way but after 1.5 hours in line we had no desire to jokingly argue with an officer in an uniform.)
(Stole this from the Internet. This is what my picture should have looked like minus the dude.)
Once we crossed over the boarder we were officially on vacation and boarded the houseboat otherwise known as a dhow. The kids were eager to start the swim, dolphin, snorkel, fish, and kayak adventure, that is until we noticed the local fisherman drag in their first catch of the day.
One might think that confiscated pictures, a long wait at the boarder and an unappealing location makes for a sorry sort of road trip but i would beg to differ. While there once was a time where the term Middle East seemed so scary and ominous to us, we now understand that not every place in the Middle East should be characterized as such. Although there clearly are areas of unrest in the Middle East there are also some lovely places that are exciting to explore because they are so starkly different from our own culture and also surprisingly safe. Sometimes what makes a place so appealing is not its picture perfect geography but the diversity and uniqueness of its people.
Oman appeared drastically different to me and i appreciated that it felt more Middle Eastern than its Westernized neighbor Dubai.
Dhow loaded with our 5 families ~ we are off to cruise Musandam and the Gulf of Oman.
Sadly the only thing we couldn't check of the list was a dolphin sighting.
Before the UAE discovered its hidden resource of oil, pearl diving was a significant source of income.
(A borrowed image of a pearl diver. They would hold their breath for minutes at a time to dive down to collect shells. You can read more about Traditional Diving Boat and the history of Pearl Diving HERE)
The history is interesting and the kids have learned quite a bit about it while living here. Which is why this part of the trip was so exciting...
Cutting open an oyster fresh from the sea.
Pearl buried inside!
Although that was exciting, the live crab, which we were told is often found in these oysters, was the real prize being fought over by the younger passengers.
5 years ago Chris and i said we would NEVER live in the Middle East. Little did we know we would one day take our kids on a boat about 40 miles from Iran near the Straight of Hormuz for a relaxing day where they could jump off the top deck of a dhow and look for dolphins. You know the saying, "Never say Never"
i am very thankful for this opportunity to live abroad in an area that previously felt so completely out of our comfort zone. As a result my eyes and heart have been opened to new people, places and experiences that remind me of how vast God's creation is and how His ideas are so much grander than my small mind could ever contrive.