Oman: Living High at the Beach

Apero hour under palm trees, their trunks wrapped in golden lights. Reflections dancing in adjacent pools. Guests lounging in comfy sofas and chairs on an elegant, marble-floored courtyard. Multi-lingual, attentive waiters serving drinks and tasty snacks. It was impressive, pure posh.

As we soaked in the classy ambience at the Shangri-La Al Husn Resort, conversation turned to past travels. “I liked those places we went to where the roads were not paved,” Bob said. We have had many exciting adventures to third world countries where, not only are the roads not paved, but sometimes the electricity fails, hot water is non existent. We reminisced about some of our favorites: Trekking through the sand with only a flashlight to guide us through the blackness, dodging ruts and driftwood branches, to a tiny, primitive beach shack in Myanmar where the fresh fish was fabulous and the family proprietors became our friends; Riding ancient, rickety bikes through back roads of Senegal, following Abou, our congenial bicycle guide, who invited us to his wedding, a colorful, spirited event deep in the boon docks; Ducking out of our lakeside tent in Kenya for a middle-of-the night trek to the toilet on the other side of a field when a guide’s spotlight shone on a bloat (group) of hippos heading in our direction.

We saw lots of goats in Oman, including artistic versions at Al Husn.

So, what were we doing in this 5* plus beach resort in Oman? It was our last hurrah, a final fling. We knew that with advancing age and medical issues, those adventures we cherish were no longer feasible. Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. Arthritis is taking its toll on my aging body. We decided to treat ourselves to a first class voyage. (We traveled in January. The trip was booked long before Covid 19 changed the world. )

Bob tests the waters. Al Husn hotel in the background.

Everything about our two-week trip was ultra – except airfare. That was, per usual, economy with extra leg room seats. 

The Shangri-La Al Husn Resort and Spa is about a half hour from the new, state-of-the-art airport of Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. The resort is part of a complex of three hotels. Our hotel, the priciest, was built atop a beachside cliff.

We booked half board at Al Husn. The all-inclusive price was expensive, but with all the over-the-top amenities, seemed reasonable.

Al Husn with the infinity pool and the Gulf of Oman
Our spacious room’s fruit basket was refilled daily. There was no extra charge for drinks, including beer and wine, and snacks from the mini bar. We rarely indulged as copious food and beverages were offered throughout the day.

 

Starting with breakfast: Mind boggling. Several rooms brimming with all manner of buffet selections to suit the tastes and customs of numerous nationalities, from Asian favorites, to smoked fish to sausage and eggs. The array of fresh fruit was gorgeous and intriguing – things I had never seen before.

There was also a breakfast menu, which, in addition to standard selections (scrambled eggs, pancakes etc.) featured specials that changed daily. I tried a different one each day. During breakfast a waiter or waitress came to offer the smoothie of the day, not to mention coffee refills.

No need for lunch after that, especially since breakfast continued until 11 a.m. You could linger on the terrace and enjoy sea and cliff views.

The private beach for Al Husn is small, nestled between the walls of cliffs.

More pampering at the pool or beach. As you arrive, an attendant greets you and leads you to a lounge chair, presenting you with, not just towels, but a mini cooler filled with bottled water, fruit juice and a refreshing facial spray. The lounge cushions are extra thick. Some of the lounges are king bed size. In the afternoon about 3 p.m., an attendant strolls by offering sherbet, featuring the flavor of the day – strawberry, mango, banana…

Bob found a poolside hideaway.

Since our hotel was atop a cliff, its beach, a walk down a pathway, was small, however, its infinity pool was huge. And, we could use the wide sandy beach of the adjacent hotels along the shore

High tea treats.

Not long after the sherbet pause, it’s time for a British break, high tea. Oman was a British Protectorate from 1891 – 1951. Tea (you can opt for coffee) is served from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on the same restaurant terrace as breakfast with the photo-perfect views. This time a waiter arrives at the table with a glass case enclosing three savory and three sweet treats. They were different every day, and  we ate them all.

No time to work up an appetite for the aperitif snacks. Apero hour is from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fortunately the snacks are petite, but delicious. Music is normally featured during the apero hour, but in honor of the recent death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who ruled the country for almost 50 years, music was banned in the country for 40 days. Even with music, Al Husn would be quiet.  No children are permitted at this hotel.

Cliffs at sunset.

Among the three hotels, we had our choice of six restaurants. Our package included dinner and wine at a buffet restaurant with amazing selections. We dined there a few times, but also tried the others: Italian, seafood, international, Moroccan and Middle Eastern. At these, we had had a budget of 25 rial ($65) per person. We had to pay for exceeding the limit which we often did. We like wine – very costly in Oman. A glass was about $19.50. But, hey, this was our splurge trip, and we did limit ourselves to one glass each.

Arabia influences the interior of Al Husn.

Al Husn means castle. We indeed felt like royalty during the 10 days we spent in this luxurious ambience. At times it seemed too much.   Yet, we enjoyed the serenity, the beautiful surroundings—not to mention all those amenities.

The complex of three hotels has 640 rooms, 180 of which belong to Al Husn. The staff, from 800 to 1,000 employees depending on season, represent 44 different nationalities.

Yes, it was a major splurge, but every penny well spent. As my wonderful husband often says, “You can’t take it with you.”  Covid aside, this was our last big trip and a perfect finale.

Orchids in the lobby at Al Husn
For more on Oman, use the search option above right for Oman.  There are three posts:  Oman’s Mighty Mountains, Oman: Luxury in the Desert and Introducing Awesome Oman.  Still more to come — Muscat, the fascinating capital.  If you want to know more about Senegal or Myanmar, do a search on those countries. I wrote several posts on each.

Today’s Taste, upper right,  features a refreshing summer salad, Cucumbers in Sour Cream Dill Sauce.  Click on photo for recipe and scroll down for more recipes.

If not a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private, not shared.
Please comment.  Click below then scroll down to Leave a Reply at bottom and add your thoughts.

 

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Covid-19: France and the U.S.

These are trying, troubled times, especially in the United States where Covid -19 seems out of control. As an American living in France, I found the  article, “Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing,”  which appeared in The Atlantic on July 5, pathetically pertinent.  The author of the article, Thomas Williams Chatterton, is an American who … Continue reading “Covid-19: France and the U.S.”

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We were happy when our neighborhood park reopened,  These ancient olive trees are magnificent,

These are trying, troubled times, especially in the United States where Covid -19 seems out of control. As an American living in France, I found the  article, “Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing,”  which appeared in The Atlantic on July 5, pathetically pertinent.  The author of the article, Thomas Williams Chatterton, is an American who lives in France.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/america-land-pathetic/613747/

Williams relates his experience of returning with his family to Paris after having spent the lockdown, “one of the world’s most aggressive quarantines,” in a rural village. Paris was bustling, minus tourists but with lots of locals enjoying their new freedom. This worried him.  Many seemed indifferent to the discipline that was required– masks, social distancing.

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Restaurants in France have reopened,  Above, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

 “I couldn’t shake the feeling that France was also opening up recklessly early. But I was wrong to worry. As Donald Trump’s America continues to shatter records for daily infections, France, like most other developed nations and even some undeveloped ones, seems to have beat back the virus,” he wrote. He cited Texas, Florida, and Arizona where the virus appears out of control. He wrote of a tweet by musician Rosanne Cash stating that her daughter had been called a “liberal pussy!” in Nashville for wearing a mask to buy groceries.

‘That insult succinctly conveys the crux of the problem. American leadership has politicized the pandemic instead of trying to fight it. I see no preparedness, no coordinated top-down leadership of the sort we’ve enjoyed in Europe. I see only empty posturing, the sad spectacle of the president refusing to wear a mask, just to own the libs. What an astonishing self-inflicted wound,” he wrote.

Chatterton also wrote of the EU travel ban on visitors from the U.S.and other hot-spot nations.  “The EU believes that the United States is no better than Russia and Brazil—autocrat-run public-health disasters—and that American tourists would pose a dire threat to the hard-won stability our lockdown has earned us. So much for the myth that the American political system and way of life are a model for the world.”

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Enjoying the Mediterranean — before the crowds.
 

Chatterton worries about his parents in the U.S., in their ’70s and ’80s  and “at the mercy of a society that is failing extravagantly to protect them… from a tough and dangerous foe that many other societies have wrestled into submission.” — Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of “Self Portrait in Black and White”

 

I too am worried — about friends and family in the U.S., about the state of the country where I was born.  The virus  is not the only woe plaguing the U.S. The world watched in horror as George Floyd was despicably murdered. We have witnessed police brutality, raw racism. Gun violence is increasing. The country is being torn apart with hatred, lies, dangerous conspiracies – plus the virus. It’s all hard to fanthom. Yet, despite all the gloom, on one front I remain optimistic.  At last it seems to be sinking in. Black Lives do Matter. More and more are waking up to the reality, the cruelty and injustice of systemic racism in the country. Change will be slow, but it’s underway. That gives me hope.

POST LOCKDOWN CHEZ NOUS

I feel guilty writing about our lives in France now. With the exception of masks and social distancing,  all seems normal. Maybe too normal. As we see hot spots emerging in places where all was under control — Australia, for example — I have to worry and wonder about the dangers that may lie ahead.  It is especially troubling when I see large groups of maskless folk. Nonetheless, since our strict lockdown ended on May 11, we have enjoyed returning to beloved Italy to see a friend and shop. We have been to restaurants, but always dining outside. We visited friend Karen in Beaulieu- sur -Mer and walked along the coast together.

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Sainte Agnes

We explored Sainte Agnes, a nearby hillside town. I have been to the beach, but it is crowded and chaotic. We are lucky. Our apartment building has a beautiful pool – crowd free. I’d prefer to swim in the Med, but the pool is serene, soothing and safe. We are fortunate to be here.

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No crowds at the pool.

img_7918_compressedPlease, wherever you are, wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay home if possible. Read. The following two articles, both recommended by friend Trina who has survived lockdown in Italy, are enlightening. They are part of the New York Times 1619 Project which examines the legacy of slavery in America.

 You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opinion/confederate-monuments-racism.html?referringSource=articleShare

If you want to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html

On the topic of slavery and racism, two brilliant novels I can recommend, both by Colson Whitehead: “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys.”

This following Washington Post article is heartbreaking, tragic, and yet another example of the inhumanity of DT : “Clint Lorance had been in charge of his platoon for only three days when he ordered his men to kill three Afghans stopped on a dirt road. A second-degree murder conviction and pardon followed. Today, Lorance is hailed as a hero by President Trump. His troops have suffered a very different fate.”

https://s2.washingtonpost.com/2a3bebc/5efdc500fe1ff6482db2578b/598779019bbc0f6826f2bcdf/9/62/5a5741db5c3042f128b758adc4dd8420

Scroll down for some happy scenes.  And, feel free to add your thoughts.  See Leave a Reply below, then scroll to bottom. Comments welcome. If not a talesndtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private, not shared,

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Sunrise on the Mediterranean.

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Along the coast
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Karen, Bob and Cindy on the beach in Camporoso. — our first outing to Italy after lockdown ended.

 

Loosening the Lockdown in Southern France

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Social distancing — on the shore, in the water..

In the United States folks are celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend. In France, it’s a long holiday weekend, too. Thursday was a religious holiday, the Ascension, celebrated 40 days after Easter when Christians believe the body of Christ ascended into heaven.  Many take Friday off as well and enjoy a four-day break at the beginning of summer.

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Menton beach on Ascension Thursday,

This year they can’t venture far – only 100 kilometers from home. But, that’s better than just one kilometer which is what it was up until May 11 when the Covid lockdown restrictions began to ease. Stores have opened.  It is mandatory to  wear masks on public transportation and in shops, offices and places of worship which opened this weekend. Primary schools have reopened. However, these eased restrictions apply to green zones only – where we are. Parts of northern France are in a red zone where the virus still rages. There strict restrictions still prevail.

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Chinese mask for me.  Gov’t issue mask for Bob,.

Citizens were issued two free masks. I am sure our freebies will stop all germs, but they may suffocate us. They are large and made of two layers of unbleached muslin. One set of strings loops above the ear.  The other ties behind the head. I wore it once, but I could not get it untied. I have never been a whiz at knots, and had obviously overdone it.  I had a mask around my neck until I got home and cut if off.

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Filippo sports the Chinese mask.

We are still waiting for masks sent from the U.S. Friend Bev, a talented seamstress, sent some at least two months ago. My sister-in-law made masks, too, and sent us some. My step -daughter sent some. None have arrived. I assume it is because there are few planes flying between France and the U.S. Not to worry. You can now buy masks here, although that was not the case prior to May 11 when none were available. And, I ordered some which arrived in my mailbox two weeks ago. They appear to be Chinese..a label in Chinese. We can get Chinese masks but none from the U.S. ???

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Boule is back.

Now that we have some freedom, social distancing is supposed to be de rigeur at all times when out. As I observed, that is not always the case. The French, especially here in the south, are obsessed with the game of boule. The boulodrome near us has reopened to record numbers. All seem to be overjoyed to be back at their favorite pastime and not worried about social distancing.

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Beach where I swam last Wednesday — almost deserted.

Beaches – it’s up to local mayors to decide to open or not. I was thrilled to learn the beach closest to us had opened, but only for walks and swimming. No lounging and sunbathing. OK by me. So, on Wednesday I ventured down the big hill to the Mediterranean, placed a folded up towel on the edge of the water, put on my beach shoes (ours is a pebble beach, not sand) and took the plunge. Cold. Water temperature was 17º C, about 63º F. It did not matter. I felt invigorated, revived, elated.

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Our favorite spot.  Sit on the wall and enjoy a snack. Umbrellas offer shade.

I had the beach almost to myself that day.  There were very few swimmers. Some kids splashed at water’s edge watched over by parents sitting on the shore.

I loved the water and the solitude. It is no longer that way. The holiday brought more to the beach, but no sunbathers and all observing social distancing. It was also a welcome surprise to find the kiosks near the water open for business, selling drinks, snacks, sandwiches, even burgers. However, no tables and chairs.  Find a wall or bench to sit on. We did just that at our “happy place,” our favorite kiosk above a rocky shore with a view I cherish – the sea with the Maritime Alps in the background.

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Bob at our happy place.  Later he had a Flipper burger (salmon).  Yes, we were happy.

On Thursday, the holiday, we drove to nearby Menton and its beach. There were lots more people on this beach, as well as many sauntering along the beach promenade. There was only one entrance to the beach, and it was controlled by police. I did see a few sunbathers stretched out on beach towels, but only a few.

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Police at Menton beach,

We have been taking longer walks. I estimate 97 percent of people outdoors are without masks (us included). Masks are only required indoors. However, I was a bit surprised yesterday when I went to our neighborhood mini-supermarket. Several customers were not wearing masks. The cashier did not wear a mask. As this is a small store, social distancing is impossible. I proceeded  to the butcher shop. It is tiny. Only three customers are admitted at a time. Yet, the staff behind the counter did not wear masks. Another customer was also mask-less. However, walking home I spotted a foursome sitting on a bench – all wearing masks.IMG_7804

What is happening in France is probably no different than what is happening in the U.S. and elsewhere as the new normal – masks and social distancing – takes hold. Not all obey. But, at least here there are no armed protesters.

Hopefully more freedom is around the corner. Restaurants are slated to open on June 2. Most restaurants around here have sizable outdoor areas, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with social distancing. We hope we will be able to travel for more than the 100 kilometer limit. We hope the border with neighbor Italy will open on June 15 as predicted. We miss Italy where we love to shop and soak in the joyous ambiance.

Mostly we hope that Covid cases and deaths will continue to decline, that the new freedoms will not reverse this trend, and that all will obey the restrictions and guidelines to keep us all safe.

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Beautiful view.  Beautiful water.

 

If not a Tales and Travel follower, please sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and not shared.  I will be writing more about Awesome Oman soon: Over-the-top at the beach.  Don’t miss it.

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Simba refused to wear a mask. Her sister, Oprah, went into hiding,

Comments are welcome and appreciated.  I love feedback.  Click below then scroll  down and add your thoughts.

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Oman’s Mighty Mountains

IMG_6620The view was breathtaking. Wisps of clouds drifted in a gigantic canyon sliced through walls of jagged rock. We had paid extra for this room with a view at Oman’s Al Jabal Al Akhdar resort. It was worth the expense. During our three-day stay at this mountain retreat, I was seduced by the dramatic, ever-changing view. I took far too many photos

IMG_7019Oman’s mountains are not like mountains I have known. These craggy, rugged walls of rock in all shades of brown are intimidating. No wonder they are popular with extreme adventure seekers.

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Our resort offers “the ultimate Jabal Activity Wall: Use your hands and a series of strategically placed metal steps to trace your way along the vertical rock face before navigating jagged rock formations, ladders and vertical stairs. Below a vast canyon plunges to 1,000 meters at its deepest point, providing you with a front row seat as you soak in the peaceful silence.” At the end of the climb, you zip line, “fly through the air for the ultimate adrenaline rush.”

Maybe, only maybe, back in my much younger, wild and crazy days, I would have attempted this challenge. During our January visit, I was happy to soak in the peaceful silence from our room’s balcony. Just pondering that canyon gave me an adrenaline rush.

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Native plants and herbs surround the resort buildings,

The Al Jabal Al Akhdar perched at above 2,000 meters in the Al Hajar mountain range is supposedly the second highest elevation resort in Arabia. In addition to the above IMG_6670adventure, all types of mountain hikes are available in the area. Most were beyond us. However, we did set out on a hike rated “easy,” only to turn back after about an hour. The trails, like the surroundings, are rocky. There are sections of steps, uneven, sometimes broken. We stopped at a clearing for photos. Two women with a guide were there. One of the women, far younger and no doubt fitter than I, fell. This made me nervous, nonetheless we continued on a bit until we came to a fairly steep descent which led to a dry creek bed – more rocks of all sizes. The trail on the other side climbed to an ancient village. We decided the view of the village from afar was enough.

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The hike did offer more outstanding views of distant mountainside villages and terraced slopes. Jabal Akhdar is known as “Green Mountain.” Native trees and herbs once thrived in lofty orchards there thanks to the falaj irrigation system, rivulets coming from a stone cistern at the top of the mountain. Climate change has meant much less rain during the past ten years. Many of the terraces are barren of crops. Instead of pears walnuts, apricots, peaches, plums, figs, and apples, farmers are now planting olive trees which require much less water. A pipeline carrying desalinated seawater up the mountains is beginning to allow farmers to cultivate the terraces with other crops once again.

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I planned our trip so that we could be in the mountains on a Friday and attend the weekly goat market in Nizwa, Oman’s old capital. It was wonderful, although there seemed to be as many tourists with cameras as farmers selling goats.

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The vendors touted the merits of their beasts. Prospective buyers checked out the animals and did some serious price negotiating. Everyone took photos. The goats, many gorgeous varieties and mothers with babies, were irresistible. IMG_6734

Guide/driver Lotfi led us to Nizwa’s souk where we learned all about dates. Some 250 varieties of date palm are cultivated in Oman, and at least 12 different kinds of dates. We tasted several.

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The ginger and cinnamon dates were my favorites.

Handmade Omani daggers are the de rigueur Oman souvenir, but not for us. At a shop in the souk, I found some interesting old silver jewelry – not from Oman, but Afghanistan. – my souvenir.

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Date palms thrive in Oman,

From the mid 8th to the mid 12th century, Nizwa served intermittently as the country’s capital for a succession of Imams. The Nizwa fort, a citadel of monumental proportions, provided a safe haven in dangerous times. Dark and narrow passageways lead to the citadel. During a visit, we learned about the ingenuous traps to catch invaders off guard. Planks were placed on stairs over deep, gaping pits, many filled with hot oil. When the intruder alarm was sounded, the planks were removed.

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Nizwa Fort

Salim was our trusty driver for our thrilling off-road adventure from the mountains to the coast. He negotiated narrow, rutted, dirt roads on the edges of vast precipices in the midst of jaw-dropping scenery. I kept wanting him to stop so I could take more photos. It was too risky. Occasionally an oncoming vehicle approached. This was another adrenaline rush. It looked impossible, but Salim skillfully maneuvered the Toyota 4WD and kept us from plunging off the edge.

IMG_7078During the long drive, we talked – about his life, family, job and more. He taught me lots about the way of life in Oman and Islam. (see previous post, “Introducing Awesome Oman” ) The religion has been given a bad rap in many parts of the world.  I gained respect and a better understanding of Islam thanks to Salim.

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Salim and Bob

Our Oman trip began and ended at the beach.  I’ll write about that soon, as well as the capital city, Muscat.  Stay tuned.  If not a Tales and Travel follower, please sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and never shared.

I added a new recipe for Today’s Taste:  Smashed Carrots with Feta and Mint. See Today’s Taste 

Keep scrolling for more photos.

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Infinity pool at Al Jabal.  The viewing platform marks Diana’s Point where the Princess of Wales and Prince Charles spent six hours on a day trip in 1986.

 

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During a refreshment stop with Lotfi, we followed his recommendation and tried a refreshing drink: lemon juice with lots of mint and crushed ice. I will make a batch soon. Delicious

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Comments are welcome and appreciated.  I love feedback.  Click below then scroll way down and add your thoughts.

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Oman: Luxury in the Desert

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Bob and I were lucky. In January, just before the onslaught of the wicked virus in Europe, we ventured to Oman (see a previous post “Introducing Awesome Oman”). Our excursions to the desert and mountains were exceptional. It’s time to stop dwelling on disease and relive those adventures.

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Sand. Sand. More sand. Slopes and dunes and wide, flat expanses. After stopping in a tiny town to let air out of the tires, driver Mustafa navigated mile after mile through this landscape. At first he followed tracks. The tracks ended. He charged on. I was incredulous. He had no GPS. How did he know where to go? There was little difference between one dune and another.

He knew. In the midst of this vast emptiness we spotted two other vehicles. We had arrived at our “camp,” a short but strenuous hike to the other side of a dune. Climbing a dune is more challenging than climbing through deep snow in ski boots.

The camp was something out of a glitzy travel magazine – luxury deep in the Wahiba Sands desert.

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Bedroom tent, left, and bathroom tent.

Our tent bedroom featured a double bed, night stands, and generator-powered lamps. IMG_6378Next to the bedroom tent was our private bathroom tent. This was five-star glamping.

We were the only guests in the camp with a cook, the camp manager and his assistant to look after us. Shortly after arrival we were invited to the “sunset lounge.” Another short hike up a dune, and voila, a comfy couch for   watching the spectacular show of colors in the sky as the sun descended into distant sands. It was surreal.

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Sunset lounge

Dinner was served in the dining /living room area, not really a tent, but a canvas roof sheltering more couches, artisanal objects– ceramics, glass vases filled with sand – pillows, carpet. I doubt many Bedouin chieftains had living quarters like these.

We dined on a melange of seven different “meze” (Middle Eastern appetizers), including an outstanding eggplant concoction. I asked Egyptian chef Mahmoud for the recipe.

IMG_6367No camp is complete without a campfire. Without the sun, it was cool.  The desert fire’s warmth felt good. And, somehow it felt strange to be in this isolated ambience with all these remarkable amenities.

When the fire was put to bed, the desert night was eerie, mystical.  Total blackness, except for the sky crowded with vibrant stars. Silence. The generator was off. We were alone. The staff  left to spend the night in a town.   They gave us a flashlight.

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Living room /Dining room

Desert outings are a popular Oman tourist attraction. Many camps accommodate numerous guests. We had the deluxe version. Camp manager, Wael, an Egyptian, told us our camp was assembled just for us, and would be disassembled after our departure.

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Desert breakfast

“It’s a huge logistic work. Dismantle every item, then do it all over.” It would be set up in a different remote location for the next guests, he said.  It is all very impressive, and it had been expensive, nonetheless we felt guilty.

Wael, and many working in Oman’s tourist industry, come from other counties for job opportunities. He was working in the tourist industry in his native Egypt, but left five years ago when  the tourist industry there collapsed. Laarnie, a single mother from the Philippines, left her 7-year-old daughter behind with her mother for a job in Oman.

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En route to the camp, we had passed camels, some in pens, some freely roaming. Wael explained. “They are trained for races here,” he said. “The number of camels one owns is still a sign of wealth in Oman.”

There are camel races in Oman, but Omanis prefer to sell their camels to owners in Qatar and the Emirates where the stakes in camel races are higher, he said. In those countries, Omanis can sell champion camels for as much as $100,000.

Wael went on to explain that real human jockeys no longer ride the camels. “It’s too dangerous.” Remote controlled robots are the jockeys of today.

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Camp staff: Laarnie from the Philippines, Wael and Mahmoud, both Egyptians.

Our over-the-top escapade was desert for tourists. But, at our age we are beyond roughing it in a genuine Bedouin camp.  I am not sure such camps exist. Only five percent of Oman’s Bedouins live a nomadic life. They rarely ride camels, but drive cars.  They live in houses, not tents. However, they preserve their culture and they lead lives closely connected to their history and nature. Many work in the tourist industry.  We met a Bedouin family selling handmade souvenirs from their home on our way out of the desert.

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Bedouin souvenirs

The desert experience, including  being pampered, was  definitely amazing.  From the desert we proceeded to the mountains for more adventure. Don’t miss the next post.

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I had intended to include Mahmoud’s eggplant as the featured recipe in Today’s Taste. I followed his recipe, but my version was a disaster. It tasted nothing like his. Instead, I will include a tasty Indian dish I tried recently, Egg Curry — great way to use those colored Easter eggs.  Indian cuisine is popular in Oman. This is a vegetarian recipe dedicated to my blog guru David, a vegetarian. See Today’s Taste.

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