Text by Ugo Cei. Photography by Ugo Cei and Massimiliano Cremascoli.
This is the second part of my article about Oman. You can find the first part here.
Nizwa is a placid city at the feet of the Al Hajar mountains. It has an interesting fort that looks like it was restored yesterday, but the city really comes to life every friday morning, when Omanis from the countryside converge for the weekly cattle market. This is probably the closest you will get to the traditional Omani way of life, much more so than by watching life in the capital.
Misfat Al Abriyeen
Our guidebook says that the village of Misfat Al Abriyeen, which lies on the first slopes of the mountains, a short distance from Nizwa, resembles a Tuscan village, but whoever wrote that has probably never seen a real Tuscan village.
Nevertheless, it’s a pretty nice place, even though most of the buildings are in urgent need of repairs. Most of the old town is closed to traffic and lends itself to wandering around photographing colored doorways and generally decaying stuff. Be prepared to do some climbing though, as most of the streets are quite steep.
We stopped briefly at the Misfah Old House guesthouse, where they offered us coffee and dates, as is customary in Oman, and where we bought a couple boxes of dates to bring home. Oman’s dates are the best in the world, in my opinion.
For our final leg of the trip, we had to take an internal flight from Muscat to Khasab, in the Musandam Peninsula region. This part of the country is separated from the rest of it by UAE territory, so it is not easily reached by land, as you would have to take a long detour and waste some time crossing the Oman-UAE border twice.
The jagged coastline of the Musandam Peninsula was created by the subduction of a steep mountain range into the sea and its tip forms the southern side of the Hormuz Straits that mark the boundary between the Persian Gulf to the west and the Gulf of Oman, part of the Indian Ocean, to the East.
This phenomenon created a series of deep bays, resembling fjords, called khors. When flying into Khasab from Muscat, make sure you get a window seat on the left side, if you want the best view of them from the air. It’s certainly worth it.
Despite having only about 24 hours in Musandam, we managed to fit in two magnificent tours. First we did a private jeep tour of the mountains. Our driver took us to the interior of the peninsula along a non-paved and at times extremely steep road that reaches almost 2,500m of altitude. Save from a small, cultivated plateau, the whole region is desertic, rugged and wild. The views along the route are stunning and worth of a few hours of a pretty bumpy ride.
On the second day we booked a dhow tour (a dhow is a traditional Omani wooden boat) along the khors. This being the off season, we had a boat that normally carries at least 20 passengers all to ourselves. We saw the dolphins (not from up close, unfortunately), took a few swims and snorkeled in the intense emerald waters. Just a perfect day, at the end of which we took a cab to Abu Dhabi for our flight back home.
Did I like Oman? You bet! We only had five days there, but we saw an incredible variety of places. I am already organizing another scouting trip there, in preparation of a couple of photo tours I will be leading next winter. Check out this page for all the details.