An Eid Road Trip

The requirements for a road trip is simple: a vague sense of direction, a full tank of petrol, a sense of curiosity, and enough to eat and drink in case of stumbling upon a scenic spot for a picnic. Eid-al-Fitr provided a golden opportunity for such an adventure.

Thursday morning dawned bleak and windy, but if we have to wait for ideal weather conditions in the UAE, we will never go anywhere, so we pointed the nose of our ‘Landie’ in the direction of Madam. Close to Madam the sand dunes were slowly crawling over the main road. Even though graders are regularly brought in to remove the build-up of sand, it is an endless tug-of-war between man and nature. Despite road signs warning motorists of this “mobile dune area”, accidents are far too common on this stretch of road.

Traveling on the E55 north past Madam brought us to a turn-off to Fili. The small road that heads towards the Hajar mountains, passes through agricultural land scattered with houses, mosques, fields of purple-blooming Lucerne, an old watchtower, and a tiny fort. Close to the border we stumbled upon a dam that currently holds some water. It is a rare sight in the UAE, and although it is evident that it held much more water in the not-so-distant past, the thirsty earth and sweltering heat have drunk their share. A clump of trees providing welcome shade in this desolate landscape was the perfect place for a picnic, but the unrelenting wind made being outside unpleasant. We didn’t linger as long as we could have, but we spent enough time in this quiet spot to absorb the startling beauty of this rugged landscape.

At Shawka we joined the E44 and headed towards Kalba where we crossed over into Oman and headed towards the Sohar Beach Hotel where we decided to call it a day. The cobalt blue of the pool seduced us, and we lounged around it for the remaining daylight hours, intermittently bobbing around aimlessly in the cool water, or allowing the refreshing breeze from the ocean to cool us down. A long, leisurely supper on the terrace of the restaurant rounded off the day nicely, and it was to the soothing sound of the ocean that we eventually drifted off to sleep.

Lazy and reluctant to leave the poolside on Friday morning, we eventually managed to drag ourselves away from a complete sense of inertia as our noon check out time approached. With a final burst of energy we went in search of Sohar Castle, but as an enormous restoration project is currently underway, we could only view this impressive structure from the outside. Stripped from its former white plaster coat, it looks naked and tired as it patiently gazes towards the ocean, anchored in this spot since the fourteenth century.

We left Sohar with the joy of Eid saturating the town. Women in colourful dresses with matching headscarves were climbing into cars that headed towards family gatherings, men ambled along leafy streets, and young boys with a naughty glint in their eyes were setting off fire-crackers . . .

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