Late last year, my friend Zack mentioned an interest in visiting the Middle East with his son in the Spring. After a little planning, Zack and his oldest son, Jack, were scheduled to spend 6 nights in Oman and the UAE. Rebecca and I drove to Sohar, Oman straight after work on Thursday, April 18th. We arrived at the Sohar Beach Hotel and enjoyed a pizza and some suds by the pool. Later, we walked over to Silver Jubilee Public Park and were amazed by the number of people out enjoying the beautiful evening weather.
The next day, we lazed by the pool and strolled down the black sand beach. Checking out of the hotel, we tried to visit Sohar Fort, but it seemed to be closed. It was still impressive from the outside. We had lunch at the Sohar Fish Market before heading south down the coastal highway to Muscat. We found the Hilton Garden Inn in the Al Khuwair district and then popped over to The Chedi for drinks and dinner before heading up to the airport to pick up the boys.
We greeted Zack and Jack at the arrivals area of the newly opened Terminal 1. They had traveled from Los Angeles through Abu Dhabi. Once back at the hotel, we realized the duty free had somehow been left in the airport parkade! So Bec and I quickly drove back up to the airport while Zack and Jack got freshened up. With a little persistence and to our surprise, we located the stash and were soon back at the hotel. In search of a 1:00am meal, we found the nearby Al Lail Al Hadi Café and settled into a big Arabic mixed grill. On Saturday, the four of us headed over to the Qurum Beach for a Turkish breakfast and a swim in the Gulf of Oman. It was pretty hot so we went back to the hotel for a little rest and an afternoon swim in the pool before I drove Bec up to the airport for her flight back to Abu Dhabi. From there on, it was a boy’s trip.
The three of us asked a local guy to tie our ghutrahs (head scarves) in Omani style and we set out for the Mutrah Souq. Zack found some shirts for him and Jack and his other 2 boys. We found a restaurant and tried Oman’s national dish, shuwa. The sheep meat is marinated in a spicy date paste and roasted in a special oven, which is a pit dug in the ground. The meat is flavored with a variety of spices, then wrapped in sacks made of dry leaves, which are in turn placed into the oven.
We had a big day ahead of us on Sunday. We were on the highway heading southwest with Starbuck’s in hand by 8:00am. We arrived at Wadi Shab around 10:00am, parked, and got ready for our adventure. We took the short boat ride across the water and started our 45 minute hike into the canyon. It’s moderate terrain, but the heat was starting to get to us by the time we reached the pools. The pools are crystal clear and jumping in is the best way to cool down after the hike. Swimming and walking further up the wadi, the final reward is the cave into which you swim and see a waterfall crashing down. We were out of the wadi around 1:00pm and backtracked to Muscat. We then traveled inland through the towns of Nakhl and Al Awabi. Turning south onto an offroad track, the Hajar Mountains present themselves in full. We drove through Wadi Bani Awf and made the final push up the Eastern Mountain of Jebel Shams. We arrived just before sunset and set up camp. It was pretty windy, but the air was nice and cool. We lit a fire and made ourselves a nice steak and boerewors dinner.
The next morning, we drove down the paved road to Al Hoota Cave. It hadn’t quite opened so we stopped for a coffee nearby. It was there that we spotted some camels and a curious youngster quickly made friends with Jack. This friendly camel may have been the biggest hit of the adventure. We had a guided tour of the cave and saw 500m of the 5km long cave. We also spotted some bats, spiders, and the blind fish that live inside. From there, we popped into Al Hamra for lunch at Reem Al Yamen restaurant and afterwards we drove to the nearby traditional “falaj” village of Misfat Al Abriyyin. The village has old stone houses and uses the falaj irrigation system to make it a true mountain oasis. From there, we headed up Jebel Shams proper and got to our camp site around 3:00pm. We had some wild donkeys and goats visit our camp while we were getting set up. We played some catch and had a few games of Uno before getting the fire going. Again, at this elevation, the weather was nice and cool.
On Tuesday, we’d be heading back to Abu Dhabi. We had a quick look at the Grand Canyon of the Middle East, Wadi An Nakhur, before making our way back down the mountain. We stopped at the impressive Bahla Fort and Jack led us around surely leaving no stone unturned. We continued home and crossed into the UAE at Jebel Hafeet. We had trouble finding a Subway in Al Ain, a request of Jack’s, so Burger King had to do the trick. We arrived at our place around 5:00pm and the guys got settled in. We had a quick dip before dinner and got in a few more games of Uno before Bec served us adventurers a belated Easter dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes.
I was back to work on Wednesday. Zack and Jack toured Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and met me for lunch near my office. In the afternoon, Zack and Jack spent some time at the Bounce Trampoline Park. The three of us met Rebecca at the Umm al Emarat Park where we hit the playground and visited the petting zoo. We opted for an Italian meal and walked over to the Intercontinental hotel that evening.
We were up early the next morning as the guys had an early flight to catch. We said goodbye to Rebecca and hit the road. I sadly dropped the guys around 6:30am and said our farewells. I’ve had more than a few worldwide adventures with my friend Zack, but it was a real honour to lead him and his already gentlemen of a son around our neck of the woods.
I’m sure Jack had a few stories to tell his classmates.