Monday, February 16, 2009

Middle East: Oman

We made the trip from Uligamu, Maldives to Salalah, Oman in 9 days. We had nice winds for most of the trip until the last few hours when it blew like crazy.

The port of Salalah is a huge modern port the size of a small city. Apparently, 1/12 of the world oil production goes through this port. Unfortunately, only a very small area was designated for boats like ours and the local fishing boats so it was quite stressful since all the sailboats anchored too close for all of our comfort. We were the 6th boat to arrive in Salalah this season but we had left 50 boats in Uligamu and they would all be arriving within the next week or so. For this reason, we wanted to get more fuel, water and provisions quickly and get out again within a couple days.

To leave the port compound, we had to go out through a gate with guards who checked our passports, etc. I knew that in Oman, all the women were fully covered with burkas and that I would have to cover up also. I had started out wearing long pants and my sun jacket with long sleeves but it was very hot in the car so I had taken off my sun jacket. I was wearing a tank top underneath so my shoulders were showing. The guard at the gate asked me where my cover was. I showed him it was in the back seat but he would not let us out of the port gate until I covered up properly.

In town, the men were wearing long white gowns with gorgeous white hats (called a fez) on their head. The women were fully covered with black burkas from head to toe. They were all very camera shy so we don’t have any photos yet.

We took a bit of a road trip along the coast to see the sights. The landscape was amazing. Between the excellent quality highway and the sea were undulating sand dunes. Inland from the highway were sharp mountain peaks of bleak rock. The landscape looked too barren to support any life but we must have passed 1,000 camels along the way complete with shepherds. It was too cool!

We visited an ancient town called Mirbat which was famous in the 9th Century for breeding and exporting Arabian horses and for its trade in frankincense. The old section of town was not much more than a pile of rubble but there were still people living in the broken down stone buildings. It looked almost deserted. We saw a few men but the women darted into doorways when they saw us coming.

We would have loved to stay longer in Oman to sight see but we were more concerned with vacating the anchorage before another 50 boats showed up and started playing “bumper cars” so we headed out after only 3 days in the Middle East.


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