One afternoon in Oman while out cycling on a mountain bike in the semi-desert of Ibri I discovered a fort. Incidentally there are two towns of this name in Oman but this Ibri is more isolated and further north. Up above I saw two Egyptian vultures gliding effortlessly overhead against the clear deep blue sky. They looked very impressive with feathers of yellow, black and pristine white although on the ground they would probably look rather drab. They would have to wait a while yet for lunch.
Some weeks later there was an opportunity to see what was inside the fort. A chance encounter meant that although the area was closed for visitors the man overseeing security returned friendly greetings with an invitation to enter. So ambling – into the unoccupied and silent fort with our impromptu guide – I was accompanied by another teacher – who was happy to reveal more about its history.
A child’s broken sandal scattered amongst some debris in the corner of a small open-roofed room was an eloquent testimony to a once thriving community. But the first indication was a sign which designated a market area located very near the main entrance gate. During my time in Oman I visited many forts and castles but this was an entirely different experience since this building had yet to be renovated with any tourist considerations in mind. Consequently it was easier to imagine how people in this arid environment once lived.
On another occasion I travelled with a New Zealander in his 4×4 (and All Blacks rugby shirt) to a remote coastal region where wind and desert meet the Arabian Sea. The temperature often exceeds 40c in the Summer months.
This view was attained after climbing up a large hill which sounds easier than it was. My Canadian-German companion for this trip into the wild interior of northern Oman appeared to be more at home in this precarious environment than I was. Nevertheless I managed to grab rocks which held firm and this fact assisted in my vertical aspirations until finally arriving safely upon a barren hill top.
The fourth photograph from the top shows the view at ground level before climbing the hill. The fifth picture shows a Wadi: a valley which is dry except in the rainy season. The sixth picture shows another stretch of coastline but this time where land meets The Gulf of Oman. An evening view from the top of the roof of some apartments in the centre of Rustaq where I would spend time watching the night stars drift by. This completes a brief introduction to a friendly, hot, and somewhat mountainous country in south east Arabia. Incidentally, Skylax of Karyanda was a Greek explorer from c. 515 B.C. is known for his extensive travelling around Arabia and India.
n.b. For more on Oman and other stories see my book: No Sacred Oxen (published by Arena Books in 2014).
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