Sunday, 12 April 2009

Ras al Kaimah: Day trip to Oman

The emirate of Ras al Kaimah divides the sultanate of Oman in two. We set out for the smaller piece of Oman north of RAK, travelling along the west coast of the promontory that juts north into the Straits of Hormuz.
Crossing the border was an expensive and complicated procedure, involving obtaining documents and paying a goodly sum to both sets of officials. At least, thanks perhaps to our circumspect dress, we were processed quite swiftly and smoothly. Other tourists - women in low-cut sundresses, men in shorts - were having a more prolonged wait.

The road ran on a narrow strip of flat land wedged between the craggy grey mountains and the brilliant azure sea.

From time to time we passed clusters of walled and gated houses, an occasional block of shops and services, and many date palm plantations enclosed by high walls.
In small coves, fishing boats were drawn up on the sandy shore.

We stopped at the Golden Tulip resort for a cup of coffee on the terrace. Acres of tinted glass gave us the opportunity for mirror shots of the three of us.

At Kasab, our destination and the largest town on our route, we spent an interesting hour in the old fort, which has been turned into a museum depicting traditional village life.

Its courtyard contained date palms...

...and a display of old boats, including this one with a camel figurehead.

A cheerful party of schoolchildren in the charge of several black-clad women teachers greeted us with cries of "Hello" and much excitement.

In one of the rooms, we came across a manuscript listing twenty principles of Islam, which seemed very reasonable and responsible tenets to live by. In fact, many would be apt for any denizen of the twenty-first century, regardless of faith.

The sign outside the public conveniences answered a question of how to explain it in pictograms to a population where males and females wear much the same cut of clothing.

After leaving the fort, we found a bit of shade under a date palm to eat our sandwiches, watched by a curious but shy local resident, and a goat.

We wandered around the streets of Khasab for a while, admiring the gates enclosing every house. These are metal with often elegant designs of geometric shapes: rectangles, diamonds and circles. Some have been painted bright blue, some white; all are rusting attractively in the salty air.

Sarah Jane has some good images of other aspects of Khasab and Oman (as well as of our visit to RAK) on her Flickr site.

It had been our intention to hire a dhow for a short sea trip, hoping to see some of the dolphins and turtles that abound in these waters, but only speedboats are available for less than half a day, so our only turtle sighting will remain the dead one washed up on the beach near Sarah Jane's home in RAK.

Dinner back in Ras al Kaimah at a Lebanese restaurant. Tomorrow will be our last day.

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