The boys had a long weekend; Husband and I wanted to explore (despite the boys’ pleas to spend four straight days playing video games), so off we went, to the beautiful rocky fjords of northern Oman. We spent a beautiful day puttering around on a dhow, stopping occasionally to swim and snorkel off the back of the boat. Braver souls (my children!) dared themselves to jump from the boat’s top deck into the turquoise waters below. There were dolphins and soaring cliffs and soft ocean breezes…
Sounds like a great weekend, doesn’t it?
How would it sound if I told you that those turquoise waters are part of the Strait of Hormuz, that part of the world that seems only to appear in U.S. newspapers in the context of threatened blockades, gas prices, anxieties about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and so on. Doesn’t precisely sound like a vacation destination – and yet Musandam, the name of this area, is one of those “must sees” if you’re in the Gulf region.
Driving to Musandam from Abu Dhabi takes about five hours (including an hour-long stop at the border between Oman and the UAE, more about which in a minute) and seems like driving back through time. The oil (and thus oil revenues) is not distributed equally through the UAE, so while Abu Dhabi is awash in glass-plated skyscrapers and Ferraris, the Emirate of Ras Al Kamah is a tad slower:
(Yes, those are cows under the tree.)
Truth be told, while I wouldn’t want to live in RAK, as it’s known, it’s a reminder of how far – and how fast – life has changed in Abu Dhabi in just forty years. Forty years ago, even twenty, the corner where my fifty-story skyscraper stands now could’ve looked like this.
There are no cows at the border crossing – but there are goats wandering in the limbo-land between leaving the UAE (glossy office building that looks like it was built from an insta-office kit) and entering Oman (offices housed in trailers similar to those found on construction sites). Border crossing goes like this: park outside the UAE office, go inside, telling your crabby car-bound children to shush, wait for Husband to present our papers (as a woman, my role here is to hang back, keep the kids quiet, and not smile). Then back into the car, drive ten feet, park again, get out, present papers to Omani guards, shuffle everyone back in the car, swerve around the goats, drive through the checkpoint, and volia! A new country. Then along twisting mountain roads with no safety rails, sort of like driving on Pacific 1 in Big Sur, but with the added joy of UAE drivers: what? blind hairpin curve along the edge of a cliff no passing? HAHAHAHAA watch this! Continue Reading →