Colorful Oman

{Guest post by: Jillian Bellamy}

As Lindy-Ann described in her recent Sepia post, life in the desert can become a bit…. monochromatic. Sure, we get to enjoy the ever-changing blues of the gulf, and the color of sand has its own charm; especially when it blows in and turns the whole world orange, but there is a lot to be missed when you decide to call a Kuwait  your home. Of course, there are the obvious changing autumn leaves, bright blooms of spring, and even the dreariness of a grey winter sky, but what my family and I didn’t realize we were missing were the not so obvious scenes. The colors of the earth itself were lacking in our palette. That is, until we hit the road out of Muscat, Oman and embarked on a feast for the eyes and the soul. This was our third trip to the Sultanate of Oman, and this gem of the Middle East is certainly worth the repeat visits.

IACW - 2 Sandstorm.jpg

We have been fortunate to travel to some pretty enchanting places on this planet, and Oman nears the top of the list. I’ve never felt so beckoned to explore every nook and cranny and venture down so many paths less chosen. Oops, back to reality – we had two kids in tow, so ALL of the nooks and crannies may have been off limits, but we managed to stumble upon our fair share.  

IACW - Bellamy family

Our first stop was Jebel Shams. Our journey to the highest peak in Oman took us through an otherworldly landscape of colorful rocky mountains that had our 4 year old chiming in from the back seat to ask, “Are we still on the Earth??”  In addition to the usual greys, tans and browns of the mountain rocks, we were surprised to see the mountains reveal deep, earthy purples, sandy reds, and sage greens; all set against a clear blue sky and dotted with funny, little goats. At the end of our drive awaited an orange-pink sunset, that transformed the rocky landscape into an amazing blue-grey before the night sky became a blanket of stars. We treated ourselves to a campfire and a little taste of home as we roasted marshmallows in the orange glow.

IACW - goatIACW - J&RIACW - sunsetIACW - campfire

Our next stop, the highlight of our trip, was a visit to the quaint farming village of Misfat al Abriyeen. Nestled in the mountains, we came upon this village of crumbling mud brick homes and countless palms.  A meandering path took us through alleyways donned with colorful doors in various states of disarray before passing through an archway into a hidden world of date palms, an ancient aqueduct (falaj) system, and terraced farming fields of papayas, mangoes, bananas, corn, pomegranates, limes, figs… the list goes on. We were mesmerized by this oasis of green and life tucked away in these barren mountains, and neither words nor photos can really do this village justice.

IACW - palms.jpgIACW - doorsIACW - aquaIACW - village viewIACW - village view2

Before heading out of the mountains, we stopped to browse the souq in Nizwa, whose main wares were clay pots, silver, and dates. The people of Oman greeted us warmly with their deep brown eyes, friendly smiles, and hospitality rooted in Bedouin tradition. The men in the shops wore perfectly pressed disdashas that strayed from the typical whites and creams and seemed to emulate the colors of the landscape – earthy blues, greys, greens, browns, and even purples were complemented by beautifully embroidered caps called kummahs. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that my camera met its demise at this souq, which was both devastating and, admittedly, liberating.

IACW -  souk.jpgIACW - souk2

We descended from the mountains, armed with only our cellphone cameras, to the fringes of the Empty Quarter, a vast expanse of picturesque sand dunes inhabited by Bedouins. Along the way we saw tiny mosques with domes of glistening gold and colorful mosaic tile set against the mountainous backdrop, as well as dozens of whirling sand tornadoes that conjured up images of genies and desert mystery.  When we crossed the threshold into the desert, we were surprised to see so much greenery sprouting from the red-orange sands. The abundant shrubs and bushes were being happily munched on by camels and goats alike. After arriving at our chosen camp and being greeted with dates and Omani coffee, we settled into our Arabic tent surrounded by the familiar black and red fabric that we are accustomed to seeing in the diwaniyas of Kuwait. We scaled a giant dune to enjoy another sunset, another campfire, and another star-filled sky.

IACW - beoduinIACW - dessert

On our last night in Oman, we sat poolside on a bluff, and we talked about how grateful we were to have had the opportunity to visit this colorful little piece of the world.  We watched the big orange ball of a sun dip behind the sparkling sea, framed by two perfectly silhouetted palm trees. I wished I’d had my camera to document the scene, but instead I jumped into the cool blue pool to watch the little guy enjoy his last holiday swim. It turns out that some moments are best captured with your mind.

Safe travels,

Jillian

IACW - Jillian.jpg