The Sultanate of Oman…that just sounds cool doesn’t it? If I was to be any type of world leader I would definitely be a Sultan. It sounds way more powerful than Prime Minister, President, Chancellor or even King. Another reason why Babe Ruth’s nickname “The Sultan of Swat” is still the coolest nickname ever. Anyway, Oman was such a breath of fresh air for me in this region. It is easily the best place I have visited in Arabia. It lacked shopping malls, tall modern buildings, traffic, tackiness but it had a few things called charm, stunning natural beauty, character and uniqueness. Oman saved my soul from the ultra tacky modernity of the new Gulf States and reminded me why I love to travel to far away places.
I started out driving from Dubai, the long way to Muscat which was captivating to behold some of the natural beauty in the desert-it reminded me of the Sahara but it was clearly different. It had gorgeous mountains alongside peach colored sand drifts that were tough to take eyes off. Muscat, the capital of Oman lying right on the Gulf of Oman amongst gorgeous mountains is laid out in a way that makes it look like a bunch of little towns to form one city.
The city was great, the architecture reminded me of a northern Moroccan Mediterranean meets the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The buildings and houses were all similar. They are all whitish and cannot be over a certain height which looked to be about 5 floors. They all also had to have Arab style windows and/or roofs on the buildings and houses. They were great to look at and in the main harbor where they had a wonderful Corniche, the white was set off very nicely by the royal blue water of the Gulf of Oman. For me, it was cool too because they had an Amazing Race episode like 2 seasons agao where they were on the same Corniche in Muscat and I always thought it looked nice on TV and it didn’t disappoint in person. After spending the day in Muscat, we headed up toward to the two enclaves of Oman; Madha and the Musandam Peninsula.
The Musandam Peninsula was beyond spectacular. It was one of the best coastal drives I have ever seen. It was right up there with the Cape of Good Hope, the Great Ocean Road, the Pacific Coast Highway or the southern coast of Gran Canaria. The road up to Khasab at the northern point of the peninsula hugged the coast and the waves would actually crash and knock water up onto the road as it was really windy. The mountains on one side and in the distance were a breathtaking backdrop to the gorgeous azure waters sparkling in the bright sun. It was perfect and the type of thing that just makes you sit back, relax and attempt to take it all in while not wasting your whole time trying to take a million pictures although I did take quite a few. It was the type of thing that makes me love to travel. Seeing natural landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty.
Modernism and package tourism is fine but it doesn’t do it for me as a visitor. Also, what I have discovered most about myself this trip is that I live in New York, an ever changing modern city that still retains a lot of old charm and a lot of variety which for me is great and makes it a fun and an interesting place to be. But I could never move to be a packrat in a place like the new Gulf. It seems people here are under a controlled, pre-packaged spell of obliviousness toward this very fact of conformity regarding the type of modernism that they build for you to live within. It would drive me nuts.
The other Gulf States I visited so far didn’t have what Oman has and it’s not their fault and they weren’t fortunate enough to have the landscapes that Oman has but that is why you travel. To be blindsided by things and be in awe. After 153 or so countries now, as a jaded traveler-today I was in awe in Musandam and that felt great and I needed it after all the malls and fast food joints. No crowds, no tourists, no tall glass buildings-just great scenery in a great place-the way it was intended to be.
Oman was really wonderful and I only wish I had more time to see the rest of the desert areas but I hear that Yemen has similar if not better desert landscapes that I am really looking forward to seeing as my last stop this trip.
I am back in Dubai right now awaiting my annoying middle of the night flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then on to Djibouti. It should be interesting and I really am looking forward to heading back to East Africa, where I have had some of the best times of my life and where modernism certainly doesn’t exist-trust me on that one.