20 January 2010
Dhows, Dolphins and Oman.
On Monday we took a vacation from our perpetual vacation, a dhow excursion to see fjords and dolphins in the Khor Sham (Arabian Gulf) in the country of Oman.
We had heard about the dhow excursions and dolphin sightings off the coast of Khasab, the capital of Musandam. After a bit of searching, we found the company that had been recommended to us, Khasab Travel and Tours, and booked the trip. We really wanted to see those dolphins, but knew it was only a possibility, not a guarantee (these are wild dolphins, after all).
Oman is a mere hour and a half from where we live in Dubai, and Khasab just an hour and half further. We packed up the boys and a picnic and headed for the border. It was one adventure after another! We have become accustomed to seeing wild camels in the dessert (someone somewhere owns them, and if you hit one you will pay, literally), but we were not prepared to see wild cows. Ok, maybe they weren’t really wild, but they were walking down the middle of the city streets of Ras al Khaimah and there were no shepherds to be seen. Then there were goats. Goats everywhere! I love this country.
Three hours, a very windy mountain road, a dozen wayward cows and quite possibly hundreds of goats later, we found ourselves at the departure spot. We almost drove right past—the travel “agency” was a trailer parked in a sand lot at the base of a mountain. In their defense, it was across the road from a small port and it did have a small sign. They greeted us by name and sent us down the road for a spell until the dhow was due to depart. What a treasure trove of seashells we discovered! I don’t think there is anything Boy and I like better than a day at the beach looking for seashells. Oman was our little piece of heaven on earth. Even the boys found lots of treasures. We might have missed our excursion, except we were the only party booked for the afternoon—a private tour!
Our guide, Mohammed, was quite a character. A native of Kumzar, Oman, he was fluent in forty-five dialects of his native language! I have no way to verify this, but I have no reason to doubt him either. He brought us to see the most amazing fjords/mountains. I couldn’t help but wish my college geology prof were there!
To make the day complete, we saw dolphins. Lots of dolphins. Unlike their captive counterparts, the wild dolphins do not like to swim with people or eat food out of their hands; they are afraid and will leave if you attempt either. But they love to race boats! We saw a particularly playful calf with its mother. What a treat to see such clever and graceful animals in the wild.
Before heading back to shore, we stopped at Telegraph Island. If I remember correctly, it is the location where the British first laid telegraph cable in this area in 1864. It was manned for only ten years, the gentleman deciding it was way too hot to stay longer! We were there in the hot January sun; I can’t imagine holding down the fort, so to speak, in July or August. Ugh. Boy and number one son swam from the dhow to the island to explore (what 5-year-old boy doesn’t love to explore an island?!). Before leaving, they left their mark in the form of an Inukshuk, not the first on the island, and I’m sure not the last.
In the end, a wonderful time was had by all. Oh man, we loved Oman. We will be back next year!
p.s. Does anyone know how to insert pictures in the body of the text? I could only figure out how to place them at the beginning of the post.