Oh Man! What a Cool Place!
Ok, I wasn't quite done with Asia yet...
I flew from Bangkok to Muscat, Oman with Oman Airways. I arrived just after midnight and I had over 15 hours before my next flight. I had no idea what to expect.
After getting my visa and officially entering Oman, I picked up my backpack and then dropped it off again at the left luggage counter. I then found a food court, bought a soda, and fell asleep on the booth bench. Luckily, it was padded and nobody seemed to mind that I was sleeping there, so I slept for about four hours. Not bad.
I woke up around 5:30 AM with the call to prayer broadcast over the loudspeakers. I felt well rested enough and so I decided to leave the airport.
The sun was just starting to rise as I walked across the parking lot to the main highway. From there I grabbed a shared mini-van taxi that took me closer to central Muscat. Most of my fellow passengers were Indian or Pakistani workers. The driver was listening to Arabic talk radio.
I transferred to another mini-van taxi and then I was dropped off in Muttrah, an area along the harbor.
I pulled out my camera and started snapping photos of some people feeding bread to the seagulls (see above).
This is when I met Mohammed.
You see him here with his son, Idris, feeding the seagulls.
As I walked by he greeted me and shook my hand. With a natural friendliness he asked me a bit about where I was from and how long I would be in Muscat.
After telling him I only had a few hours he asked if I would be interested in taking a hike into the nearby hills with him and his son.
Now, when you're traveling, you always have to be careful about very kind strangers. You never know what they really want. But with Mohammed I felt certain that his generosity was genuine and so I readily accepted his offer.
He had to grab some things from his house...
After getting some things from home and a sackful of goodies from the mini-mart nearby, we got in Mohammed's jeep and rode around the harbor to the base of some rocky hills.
He changed from his Omani tunic into more suitable hiking clothes and then we set off on our way up the trail.
All along the way we talked about life in Oman, life in America, life in Germany, and other things.
We had a nice view of the coast...
We had some cold drinks and snacks for our break and then we descended into a small valley...
We caught a view of the harbor where we had just come...
We then followed a stream bubbling out of an unexpected spring...
Idris and I were very interested in the frogs...
It was beautiful, peaceful, clean desert landscape.
After about an hour and a half of hiking we came back around to the car where we had begun. The sun was getting higher and it was getting warmer. Mohammed asked me if I wanted to go snorkeling!
Unfortunately, my swimsuit was in my bag at the airport so we decided instead to just go to the waterfront and have a little sit on some folding chairs that he had in his trunk. We ate our snacks and enjoyed more good conversation.
One of my favorite things that Mohammed said was this (paraphrasing):
"Many people just want to take and take and they don't understand that you are happier when you are giving."
We got back in the jeep and he gave me a brief tour of the city.
We stopped at the Sultan's palace complex...
We the drove past some of the oil refineries and then up to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking part of the city.
It was approaching 12pm and Mohammed needed to get to the mosque for midday prayers and I needed to get to the airport. So he dropped me off at the harbor where we originally met, exchanged contact info, and he offered me a warm invitation to return to his country.
I was truly grateful to have met Mohammed and Idris and I look forward to returning to Oman someday soon!
I took the mini-van taxis back to the airport and got there with time to spare (and have a Dairy Queen Blizzard!)
I boarded the plane and flew the rest of the way back to Munich.
When I arrived on Friday evening, I was greeted unexpectedly by the Young Men from church! (I am the Young Men's adviser in our local congregation.) They came to surprise me and it was great!
And so ends an epic trip and by far the best layover I've ever had.
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