Oh Man this is a great country to visit

Not sure if we’ll bother seeing any others in the Middle East

As Sawjhar

We didn’t know we’d be going to the “Most Improbable Village in Oman.”

After camping for several nights in Hannibal, the name we gave to the rooftop tent on the Land Cruiser we’d rented, our plan was to drive up to the Sayq Plateau and luxuriate for two nights at the Sahab Hotel (A real bed! A hot shower!) and hike the “Rose Walk Between Four Villages.”

It was Fenny at the Sahab Hotel who told us about As Sawjhar, the Omani village where people still live in caves.

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An Nakhur

“When you see a parade of mules coming, move off the trail,” our guide Brian told our hiking group last spring in the Grand Canyon.

“Why do you use mules instead of horses?” someone asked.

“Mules can carry a lot more weight for one thing. They’re also more sure-footed than horses. It’s the way they walk. And mules don’t spook. Remember the horse jumping off the cliff in The Revenant? A mule would never do that.”

Turning to Magellan, I said, “Remember our hike in Oman’s Grand Canyon to that abandoned village? They used donkeys to carry up supplies.”

“How could I forget?” he said. “It’s the only place I’ve ever had vertigo.”

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Wild camping—that’s the Omani term for what we call primitive camping, Americans call dispersed camping and New Zealanders call freedom camping.

We’d been wild camping in Oman in a Land Cruiser with a Hannibal rooftop tent in the Hajar Mountains, at Jabal Shams and in the Cinnamon Desert. Now we were heading south toward the Empty Quarter. Ahead of us were two nights of camping on the Arabian Sea. Water!

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Spraying a dab of perfume on myself this morning made me think about camels.

“Camels, I like,” said Aubed, our guide in the Empty Quarter of Oman. “I own some with my cousin.”

“Why do you like them?” I asked.

“Very smart animal. Call their name, they come. Camel milk I like. The meat, too.”

“Do you think we’ll see any camels out here?” I asked Aubed.

“One family still has some. Maybe on the way out.”

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Camping in Oman

What was one of my biggest fears in venturing off-road by ourselves through the wadis, beaches and deserts of Oman? Scorpions and camel spiders! I didn’t want to become a part of the food chain in a foreign country.

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On this Christmas day, Magellan and I are treating ourselves to the gift of frankincense.

It’s burning in the ceramic mukkabbah we bought in Oman, releasing a primal smoke, an aromatic fragrance more powerful than that released by our Christmas tree.

Until two Christmases ago, we didn’t know much about frankincense. Gift of a wise man. Valuable commodity in ancient times.

Now we’re hoarding the four kilos we brought back from Oman, treating our little beads of frankincense, which are the colour of old-fashioned creamed honey, as if they were more worthy than gold. Which at one time they were. Read more