Dubai, a sea of Skyscrapers, big shopping malls, multicultural and big cars. For a short time I thought I’d arrived in Manhattan.  

The traffic is mad. Full of bigheads driving their fancy cars without any consideration for anyone else and much less so for a cyclist. 

More over there are prohibited signs everywhere. No swimming, no BBQ, no cycling, no anything. The top of the bans was that I wasn’t even allowed to park my pushbike in front of the Dubai Mall. At every corner there was a security man who sent me somewhere else. 

In the city everything revolves around money. 80% of the population are Expats. The labour force are from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. 

The well educated Europeans are the middle class and the rich Emirates are the elite.

 

 

Rafael and I said good bye.

His plan was going along the coast to Muscat and from there to India. I wanted to peacefully see the mountains in the interior of Oman. It wasn’t easy for both of us to say good bye. After all we experienced a lot together.

I was tired and worn out, I was seeking silence and recovery. I wanted to get back to my own pace. Most of all I eventually wanted to go on dirt roads.

Quite often the traffic in Iran was too much. However, the main reason for going to Oman was the cold weather. Iran had the coldest winter for decades, so I wanted to warm myself up a bit.

In Yazd, Iran I met a really nice German couple from Dubai who offered me a place to stay.

Her settlement is a mirror of an American neighbourhood. Security guards, the school bus stops in front of the door, a nanny from the Philippines, golf course around the corner, people running along the roadside as well as the non stop watering of lawns.

In the night rampant lightshows along huge and cheesy skyscrapers.

Suddenly I was in a different world. Luxury amidst the desert.

In Iran I was almost looked at like a hero and treated nicely everywhere. Here I was absolutely no one. A poor European lady who can’t afford a car.

I applied for a Uzbekistan visa, asked for a Iranian visa and I was trying to get used to the new circumstances I was confronted with.

It was a real culture shock. I landed in exactly the same society that I left at home on purpose. But here it was even exacerbated.

It wasn’t easy to leave the city. Cyclist are not allowed to cycle on the highways, but there are no alternatives. However, I coped with the noise, ignored the prohibited cycle signs and pushed on to Oman.  Accompanied by wonderful tail wind I managed to reach the border on the first day.

They checked my passport but didn’t stamp it. I found this a bit weird, but more about it later.

I left the Emirates with a lot of pleasure, hoping to find a more silent life in Oman.

The first night the darkness caught me too early and I tried to find cover in a mosque. But I wasn’t welcome and they sent me to the police. The police asked for my passport, which I normally keep like a treasure and don’t give it to anyone, but in this case I followed their demand.

It took ages until the police officer came back. He had a big bundle of copies in his hand, because he copied all my visa and stamps. I asked him what he was doing.

In the end they sent me away anyway, but first they registered me filling pages in a book.

Finally I sneaked into the mosque compound and hid behind a wall.

 

There was no stamp at the second passport control either. I was already a while on Omani soil and had neither a UAE exit stamp nor a Oman entry stamp.

Maintenance work was due.  Surrounded by lots of marvelling Indians, I fixed my bike. I changed my chain after 5000km, replaced a worn out shift cable as well as a broken spoke.

In the afternoon I reached the third border checkpoint. The border policeman searched for a UAE exit stamp but couldn’t find one and asked me if I could show him where the stamp was.

I explained him that there wasn’t a checkpoint anywhere on the road where I had come from and showed him on the map which road I took and he confirmed that there wasn’t any border post at all.

The border post was 25km back the way I had come from, but on a side road. Big joke I thought, I have never seen a border post before that you have to search for. One of the police officers had sympathy and drove me back to the frontier.

The border post wasn’t visible at all from the road I came on. UAE charged 35 Dirham departure tax and the Omani police man said it was payoff, but I received an official receipt.

Back at the Omani border I asked for a 30 day visa which is 20 Rial/40 Euro, but I could only pay with credit card. This was the next problem, because I don’t have a credit card. It wasn’t possible to pay with cash, either in Dollar, Euro or Rial. 

After a while back and forth, a very expensive car showed up. I hoped for the best and asked the obviously rich man if he could pay for me. For this friendly Omani it was no problem at all. He welcomed me to his country and said keep your dollars, it is a welcome present for you, enjoy Oman.

Woohoo, I said thank you, smiled to the officers, received my visa and pushed off. It was pitch dark.

At the border one truck after the other stood in a long que so not a good place to pitch a tent. Not far away was another huge fenced police station and I tried my luck again. 

However they also sent me away. Weirdly, to camp in front of the entrance wasn’t a problem at all. Guarded by a armed officer, I fell asleep.

 

A family invited me to eat fruit and had obviously a lot of fun with our encounter.

That evening I was looking forward to camping alone with a campfire and lot’s of stars, but a couple invited me home. A huge family, 8 brothers with their wives and heaps of children, Uncles and aunts surrounded me.

I needed to wear a traditional Omani skirt and was photographed with lots of laughing. I felt a bit like monkeys in a zoo, but did not complain about the situation. This kind of entertainment or variety I provide is part of a cyclist life as much as the daily monotonous pedalling. 

It is like paying for the hospitality I am receiving. It is a give and take as is so often in life. They gave me a Omani skirt, jewellery and a ash tray. 

For supper they offered fried flat bread and sweet milk tea. I realized how much I was looking to recover.

This noisy yelling around me annoyed me a lot. On one side it was really interesting to see how Omanis live but on the other hand I needed a break from all these exhausting evening meetings.

We sat on a balcony. A campfire was burning in the middle of the area. Without noise a really cosy atmosphere.

Shortly after supper they asked me if I had a place to stay for the night. This was new for me, no one ever sent me away after dinner. I asked for a possibility to camp somewhere around the house and they allow me to stay but didn’t invite me in.

The next morning they had weird bread for breakfast, sweet noodles on the bread and sweet cay. 

Finally the next morning I left the main road and cycled through beautiful desert scenery. I enjoyed the silence, listened to the sound of the birds and enjoyed the scenery as much as I could. I finally reached where I wanted to be for so long. I was back in nature.

No cars, no noise, no houses, only me. It was so relaxing that I stopped quite often and just enjoyed the silence.

The road turned from tarmac to dusty gravel. Camels crossed my way, birds of prey were flying high up in the sky, now and then I came across groups of goats or a little oasis.

 
 

I was happy to leave and left the presents behind. I was also not sure if they were serious.

I reached Bat, a Unesco World Heritage side. An archaeological excavation site from the bronze age.

For a lay person the first view is nothing really special but I was lucky and could join them for 3 days. They explained a lot, I could help in the lab and I had the task to seven different stone and sand batches to look for ceramic and stone tools. I was surprised how much I found, after all it is 4000 years old. 
 

 
 
I left the area through a Wadi, along a creek. I passed Sint and followed a tiny gravel road to Al-Hamra. 
 

The landscape was superb and the best was it belonged all to me. Hidden away from the track I pitched my tent. 

No lights, the stars bright in the sky, calm and peaceful and so relaxing.

 

The next day I pedalled to the Plateau.

A viewing platform at 2000m offered a nice view of the “Grand Canyon” of Oman.

 

The Road was brutally steep. At the beginning still paved it ended in a dusty road.

 

It took me a few hours to climb up the 1500m elevation differences before I was able to look into the depth of the canyon.

Once again it was really windy.

I couldn’t sleep for half the night because my tent was fluttering in the wind. 

After the long decent I saw the real treasure of the canyon. It was much more exciting and impressive to enter the Canyon from the Wadi, instead of looking down from above.

I camped inside of the gorge on a bluff. A wonderful spot.

At 5.30 AM the echo of the call of the Muezzin resounded through the Gorge. Time to get up. Al-Hamra, an oasis full of old and abandoned brick houses. The oasis was wonderfully green with agricultural fields and a falaj, a water canal system.

 

I pitched my tent surrounded by palms. There is one rule while camping wild. Either a lot of people spot you, or no one can see you. This night I made sure no one could see me.

 
 

There are also a lot of Expats in Oman, mostly Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. They work in fields, as tailors, in laundries, as sellers in shops or they own a coffee shop where they serve delicious Indian food, which is where I ate nearly every day.

For little money you get rice and lentils and really sweet tea. I like the Indians, a really friendly folk. The Omanis use the shops as a sort of Drive in.

They stop in front of the shop and hoot, wait until the Indian runs out of the shop, place an order, and wait with running engine for the delivery. There is also a two-class society here.

Hooting is a popular sport. They hoot to say hello, as a warning and to for show off and always when they are at my side. I don’t know if they think it is funny.

For me it is just needles to hoot 50m behind me to warn me and once more right next to me. It might be a nice thought and I guess they have no idea how often I am confronted with the hoot every single day. Despite everything, Omanis are very helpful and friendly people.

Very often they asked me how I was and where I am from and if I need help. Very pleasant is that they are not pushy.

After a short while they go on their way. There are no endless questions which is really a pleasure after Iran. Only the kids in the remote mountain areas are sometimes a bit annoying. They tried to open my panniers a few times and begged for chocolate. It was a bit of a dilemma when the people asked me if I am by myself.

In the urban areas I always said the truth, in remote areas I often said, my friend is either ahead or behind me, it depended from where the car had come from. I never had the feeling it might be dangerous for me, but you never know. 

From Al-Hamra I pedalled to Wadi Tanuf and Nizwa.

 

It is hard to see women anywhere. If you do they are with their family or husband. Most of them don’t want to be photographed which I respect.

I first cycled in Oman seven years ago. Since then a lot has changed. The traffic has increased a lot and the former old pick up is now a brand new utility vehicle. 

I reached Birkat al Mawz, another pretty Oasis.

 

There are also a lot of Expats in Oman, mostly Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis.

They work in fields, as tailors, in laundries, as sellers in shops or they own a coffee shop where they serve delicious Indian food, which is where I ate nearly every day. For little money you get rice and lentils and really sweet tea.

I like the Indians, a really friendly folk.

From there it wasn’t far to the climb going up the mountain to Sayq, but a police station stopped me. The road is too steep, I wasn’t allowed to cycle up and had to take a lift.

I laughed because I had pushed up half of the pass anyway. The driver was registered to make sure he really dropped me off after the steep sections. I might have spent only 5 minutes on the plateau, somehow they destroyed my mood.
A mountain, which I climbed up myself lost a lot of attraction.

I found a lift back down, because I had to promise the police that I would not cycling downhill. I started talking to the young guy. He knew me already because he saw a picture in the most popular way of communication in Oman, whatsApp. Someone must have taken a picture of me. 

We started talking and he complained about his mum, because she wants to get him married his cousin but neither he nor she would like to do so. When we said good bye he mentioned I am the first woman he spoke to who did not belong to his family. He was 25.

I cycled into a small Wadi. Wadi Muaydin. In Nizwa I wanted to see the Friday market, the biggest stock market in the country. The market was really nice to watch. Men walking around a plaza with their stock.

 

Shortly before it got dark I got to the end of the Wadi and reached a oasis. A group of women were sitting together chatting and they gave me a nice greeting. I got fruit, tea and cooked thick beans. I pitched my tent behind a wall to have some cover of the wind.

Two of the women spoke English so I started chatting which one of them. She was 25 and she was desperately waiting for a guy to knock on her door and ask her parents to marry her. I asked why this was so important for her. She answered: it is my only chance to get away from the wadi.

But what happens if you don’t love him, I asked her. She doesn’t believe in love and if so the love comes after the marriage. She would expect 5000 Rial/10.000 Euro from her husband. The price for a woman in Oman.

I asked her why she didn’t search for a guy herself. She answered she is not allowed to talk to strange man, she did not even talk to the boys in Wadi she grew up with since she reached puberty.

A little boy joined us, her brother, but he was the son of her fathers second wife. The first wife was 47, the second only 32. They all live together. I thought about our chat for quite a while and thought what kind of god is this who forbids the most pleasant thing in the world, to experience love.

I passed Izki and reached the remote Wadi Indam.

Many camels, small villages, barren mountains and brand new sealed roads. I was looking for wind cover for my tent. Usually the wind drops after sunset but not always. In the first village they sent me away. The second let me stay behind a wall. People were really weird and I thought it might be inbreeding. 

It was a bit scary. They offered tea and dates like always. If the dates are rolled in sesame they are even more delicious. The really weird tribe sat around me for a while until I told them I would like to sleep. Camels stumbled close to my tent, the moon was bright so I could see the surroundings. It was a bit spooky and I couldn’t sleep.

In the morning I woke up with a big fright. The man of the family was standing right next to my tent looking through the net. I was awake instantly and  nearly stood upright in my tent and started shouting at him, but 2 breaths later I realized he just brought breakfast and a bucket of water for washing. I was relieved and was angry with myself for the reaction.

 
 

In the Wadi Khabbah I camped close to a few houses and sat next to my campfire. Two women and lots of kids joined me and cooked some tea for me.

I found out that here too, both women belonged to one man. I asked if the women liked each other and the kids laughed and said yes for sure.

 

Funnily that evening they asked me if I go to bed with my shoes. I explained that I not even take off my shoes, or all of my other clothes. I looked in shocked faces and they started a big discussion with each other and showed me that they do not even take off their scarf while going to bed.

In a small town a storm caught me. It rained cats and dogs, the roads were full of water and I started asking if there was somewhere for me to stay because it would have been too dangerous to sleep in the wadi.

A friendly Omani organised a place for me to stay in a hospital. A guesthouse which is normally used by family members of patients. I got the key, had a hot shower and slept on a nice comfy bed.

It very often impresses me and I am so thankful that so many people offer help so often. Every day I get support.

Either from people on my way or from friends at home. Through donations from strangers through my donation button or emotional support through my facebook friends.

Without this help a trip like mine probably wouldn’t even be possible. Therefore I want to say thank you to all of you. Thanks you so much. As a thank you, I always leave a card with my website name and some pictures behind. 

Most of the time, people really like it. 
To see how the trip through Oman continued…you can read more in the next blog.

2 Comments

  1. What a lovely write-up and beautiful photos! Many thanks for sharing these.

    Reply

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