Thursday, July 03, 2014

Posted On 7/03/2014 by Team iCynosure.

A country of spectacular natural beauty interwoven with a kaleidoscope of history, fables, tradition and adventures. Geological diversity with an array of climatic conditions makes it a heaven for beauty-hungry travellers. Sandy deserts that give in to turquoise beaches, stretches of rugged mountains which welcome cascading waterfalls, deep ravines dotted with tradiitional villages with picturesque date plantations, baby white beaches that home animal-bird life without inhibitions, tantalizing food and traditional souks.......all this and more. Very few places are not to be visited but they demand to be experienced, weaving their magic on us.

Jannat balanced equally between the barren countryside and oasis-like villages, awaiting to welcome everyone. Who wouldn’t want to be mesmerized? 
                           مرحبا بكم في عمان

Wait no more cause Beauty Has An Address, Ahlan wa Sahlan - Welcome to the Sultanate of Oman!

Photo Credits: Desert Night Camps

A perfect time to explore my Omani dreams! 

I'm all set to head westward to explore the best kept secret, a hidden gem of the Middle East

Landing into the capital city of Muscat the first thing on my mind is to revisit the Nahkr Balcony. On my Work Trip to Sohar many years ago I managed to witness its splendor and now I want to savor it. Driving through the Al Hajar mountain ranges, slowly inching towards the highest peak (9000 ft above sea level) finally I’d get to meet the Jabal Shams, i.e. the Sun Mountain. I remember enroute to the peak there is a place where three valleys merge inviting a spring water body, which is believed to be a blessed place. The other side of the stream opens into the deep ravine where the locals insist one should pray with open arms. Yes I did it the last time, and plan to do it again. 


Driving through the beautiful climate to reach the viewing deck, 'Nakhr Balcony', I’m sure loads of memories will flood my eyes... a deep ravine that opens into chiseled mountains to bid farewell to the setting sun. Mesmerized with what I saw last time, I can still feel tiny gold dust shimmering in the air, a wave of comforting breeze falling onto the gigantic mountain ranges like a soft quilt and the calmness in the air setting the heartbeats in tune. 

I hope to go there in the winters, as when the mercury dips to zero some very lucky travelers get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience snowfall. Just the view in my mind of the mountains covered in a hand-woven soft muslin cloth brings a tingling sensation to my skin. 

After a truly calm, out-of-body moment at the Sun Mountain, it’s high time I did some utterly crazy stuff. And so in a dilemma to choose between a safari, wadi bashing and a Bedouin family stay, I decide why choose one when I can club it all and more. So the next adventure that awaits me is Crossing the Empty Quarter. On a camel, maybe? Hahaha not really cause it stretches 650,000 square kilometers across Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Oman, so I better opt for a 4 Wheel Drive and a mini Desert Crossing journey for the time being. I’m sure to be armed with an experienced driver cum guide to enjoy the untouched wonders and finally arrive at one of the most luxurious tented resort at Al Wasil, The Desert Nights Camp on the Wahiba Sands. 



Rolling sand dunes as far as I can see, in varying colors of the golden sun and still home to beautiful flora and fauna invites me to explore the delights of this harsh yet picturesque place. Cruising through the never ending Arabian Sands on quad bikes is not for the faint-hearted, and I'm sure if hubby dearest decides to join me he would love the noisy dune bashing sessions offered at the resort. 


One thing that I sure would like to do is absorb Oman's culture first hand at the traditional Bedouin family homes. I've heard stories of how beautifully these families welcome travelers into their world and give them a glimpse of their lifestyle. Spending time with them will be a wonderful honor and before saying goodbye I would sure love to get beautiful henna designs on my hands, which is something all women love. 

Just as we'd head out of the sands, the smell of frankincense wafts shall pull me straight into the city of Salalah reminding me of Hatshepsut's journey to the fertile lands of Oman that I'd heard during my Trip to Egypt. With a soothing climate, palm trees and above all the fog that hangs over the mountains, the city will be a treat for the sore eyes that almost burnt out in the Wahiba Sands. As a tourist I would love to flock to the tourist destinations of Blow Holes and Anti Gravity Point, but I intend to head to the Lost City of Ubar to explore the excavated land, if thats possible.


Ubar, the lost city was once described as a magnificent kingdom rich beyond measure with streets paved of gold, earned from the frankincense trade. However fables quote that the greed and corruption of the rich lead to the city's downfall and it suffered from the wrath of God to be swallowed up by the desert. After years of search, it was finally unearthed from Outer Space. Seems unbelievable isn't it. Thats why I want to go there and see for myself. 


Oman offers innumerable amazing experiences that would be difficult to pass as an adventure sports enthusiast, especially as a Scuba-Diving and Kite-Surfing destination. Even watching various species of birds and animals is a very high tourist attraction, particularly dolphins and whales which are a rare sight in India. However as a mother I would like to witness a god-designed peculiar feat. I wonder how I will feel sitting by the shores of Ras Al Hadd to watch a beautiful turtle dragging herself onto the shore, digging holes to bury her eggs into the sand and returning to the great sea. Sometimes one even gets to spot the eggs hatch and baby turtles making their way into the sea. Oh I don’t even want to imagine this truly incredible emotional scene, I want to watch it to feel the pure raw happiness.


Somehow all through this I see myself sitting on a humungous chair, typing away on my Dell Venue Tablet documenting my amazing days, singing one of my favorite songs with a slight twist.….

All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the desert night’s heat.
With one enormous chair,
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?

Lots of dates for me to eat,
Lots of gahwa in tiny sips.
Cool face, cool hands, cool feet,
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?

Even singing about food makes me hungry.... Having experienced the warm hospitality combined with mouth-watering cuisine each meal is a culinary treat. An Omani food spread is rich in nutrition with vegetables, homos, rice and meat, and never complete without seafood. Omani cuisine takes away the mundane from traditional food, adds a touch of flavors to make the dishes appetizing. As I plan to embark on my journey two things need to be checked in the food department. One is the local traditional coffee, ie gahwa which is prepared without milk and sugar yet flavored with spices. It is said that serving gahwa with dates is an important part of the Omani hospitality and to acknowledge the hospitality one must have a cappa with a few dates. The other dish that is sure to satisfy my sweet tooth is the Omani wheat-based Halwa made with rose water and flavored with cardamom and almonds. And loads to bring back home.


Home, that reminds me with so much richness in experience, a trip wouldn’t be the same without some excess luggage? Oman is a country buzzing with its amazing crafts that have survived the changing modern times. I would love to own a piece of Oman's tradition either in form of a beautifully crafted silver Omani dagger or silver jewelry, no I definitely want both. Though there are numerous souks all over the country, I would want to visit the Mutrah Souk in the heart of Muscat. It’s the most beautiful, the oldest market in Oman dating back about two hundred years that offers a perfect blend of ancient and modern stores and products. Walking through the narrow lanes I’d ogle at antiques and silverware, take aromatic deep breaths of spices and frankincense and arm myself with some beautiful handcrafted souvenirs as I head back home.

Phew, that is a fantastic mix of adventure, leisure and romance. Cannot wait for it to begin!

Until more from #iCynosureTravels,
- Heena

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