In January 2010 David and Jenny set off to explore the desert regions of Oman. Although an organised and, in many ways, modern country, Oman has retained much of it’s culture and history. The infrastructure in the form of housing, roads, water and electricity should be the envy of any western country. There is little unemployment, and you would be hard put to find a cleaner place anywhere in the world.
However, it is the beauty of the natural environment that has the most impact. Once you are away from the coast and into the desert, the oases and hill villages have retained their individuality and character. The mountains are riven with spectacular gorges and wadis, the oases are festooned with huge date palm plantations and there is very little evidence of poverty. Terraced gardens climb the rocky hillsides and the ancient aflaj system irrigates the crops of Pomegranate, Apricot and Roses.
There are many forts in the desert of Oman. Most of them have been restored or are undergoing restoration. This one at Bahla is part restored. It sits adjacent to the old mud built houses, now crumbling slowly back into the desert. Opposite the modern houses gleam in the sunshine but lack the character of the old ruins. David had a lot of help from the local children whilst sketching this scene.
Wadi Bani Habib, an old abandoned village, is hidden in a gorge. The houses cling to the rocky hillside above the wadi where the terraced gardens that used to support the ancient community are still cultivated by the villagers who now live in smart new houses at the top of the gorge. On the way down to this village Jenny passed an old lady carrying a huge load of firewood on her back up the steep steps without any apparent effort.
Dusk in the Jebel Akhbar mountains invariably meant a spectacular sunset. This is the view from Jebel Shams camp, perched above the spectacular gorge of Wadi Nakker, the grand canyon on Oman.
Back on the coast Mutrah Corniche is in the old part of Muscat, the capital. The number of mosques is astonishing and each one beautifully maintained. At dawn and dusk the call to prayer echoes around the harbour. The headlands are littered with old forts, a relic of a more turbulent time on this romantic coastline.
David and Jenny travelled with The Ultimate Travel Company