Easter in a Muslim country, four days off when most others are at work, been home from Syria for 6 days...what to do? Five days camping on the beach was the obvious answer.
Petra, our German friend, and the Braun family from Munich (who we stayed with recently on our way skiing), Kym and I made up the group. The Brauns were in Muscat already, on holiday, so two white Prado's set off at 6am from Dubai with Petra in one car full of camp gear, and Kym and I in ours with our stuff. It was an easy border crossing at Hatta - not always the case with a couple of diplomatic passport holders - and we were in Muscat by 11.30am.
The drive first takes you through changing desert dunes scattered with the odd camel or two until the the Hajar mountains begin to loom near Hatta. Briefly beautiful before the border, then once in Oman the road quickly joins the coast road heading to Muscat and on to Salalah some 1280kms away. This double lane highway is almost boring - you know the coast is close but can never see it. The darting pedestrians, wayward taxis and occasional truck filled with camels (the ones we saw this time were dressed for a party) keep you awake and on your toes.
Coffee, lunch and dithering ensued then the hour's drive to As Sifah and onto the beach by 3pm. It was Friday, Oman's equivalent of Sunday, and there were still a few people and cars where we wanted to be, but after some gentle interrogation from Petra we were able to set up our camp on top of a group who were leaving at 6pm.
The absolute best possie up in the corner of the beach was taken, but a little way from it was the next best thing, a lovely spot and we were thrilled. Kym and I immediately declared "we're not going anywhere". In that moment our plans to explore Oman a little further evaporated.
Kym was quickly to the water's edge and a fine bream was caught, followed by a large flounder next morning which together provided lunch next day. Unfortunately Petra had taken a bait at lunch and was unable to join in the evening activities.
Kym and Ollie towed a local gentleman out of the sand (twice) before dinner. Petra had a large shade cloth on poles offering adequate shade for the seven of us so the next day was mainly spent lounging under that as we hid from the heat of the middle of the day, dipping into the lovely clear ocean from time to time. Another large bream made its way into the esky that evening.
Petra and the Brauns had to leave on Easter Sunday morning and were all packed up by 9am. We needed more ice (bream!) so planned to follow them into Muscat (The Weihe's and Brauns had met in Muscat when both families lived there around 8 years ago). However, our Prado had a flat battery. Momentary panic but easily solved with jumpa leads and we were mightily relieved hadnt happenned a day later when we'd have been on our own.
Omani hospitality was demonstrated by a kind customer in the first petrol station we tried for a new battery who had us follow him to a battery shop. The Omani's are always hospitable and courteous.
New battery was purchased and fellow campers farewelled as Kym and I retreated into an airconditioned shopping centre to while away some of the hottest hours. We had an awful coffee, found some nice plastic glasses and dithered around the shops for a bit. Armed with eskies packed to the brim with ice we headed back to our camp alone.
We had two very restful days watching other campers come and go and just 'being'. There was some serious competition for the wine and beer in the form of two varieties of wasps, one large and the other ginormous. However, we soon realised if we didn't run, scream and swat they didn't attack and the only sting sustained was by me when I lent against the back of the car...onto a wasp. Stingoes and ice settled it quite quickly and no lasting harm done either physically or emotionally.
A long, deep golden beach, backed by stark rocky hills and lapped gently by a clear blue ocean of perfect temperature. We'ill certainly return, but for now the camping season is over, the weather becoming too hot until late in November. We realised in a blinding flash what we'll miss most when we leave Dubai - Oman, a beautiful and authentic country.
An idyllic place.