Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 4: Ibri, Bahla, Misfat, Wahiba desert

24.12: Munich -> Istanbul -> Muscat
25.12: Muscat
26.12: Muscat
27.12: Muscat -> Rustaq -> Sohar
28.12: Sohar -> Ibri
29.12: Ibri, Al Ayn, Jabrin fort, Nizwa 
30.12: Ibri -> Bahla -> Misfat -> Ibra
31.12: Ibra, Al Qabil, Wadi Bani Khalid
01.01: Al Qabil -> Wahiba desert
02.01: Wahiba desert -> Sur
03.01: Sur, Ras Al Hadd
04.01: Sur -> Muscat
05.01: Muscat -> Salalah
06.01: Salalah, Taqah, Mirbat
07.01: Salalah, Wadi Dawkah, Nabi Ayoub
08.01: Salalah, Mughsail
09.01: Muscat -> Istanbul
10.01: Istanbul -> Munich

30.12: Ibri -> Bahla -> Misfat -> Ibra
Hotel Sharqiya Sands, Ibra. 45 OR for a small and cramped double room, decently furnished with TV, fridge, phone, adjustable A/C. Extra mattress for Natasha at no extra charge, breakfast included. Shirley complains that the bed smells a bit like pee. Decent toilet with shower/bathtub and hairdrier. A bit overpriced, since the room is so small.
Weather: warm and sunny (strong sun) the whole day. More or less windy. In the evening cold and windy in Ibra.

The morning starts 'well' when I check my emails and am informed that somebody hacked one of my websites. Very limited time available as I am supposed to pack our stuff and leave the hotel. Relatively slow (2G with GPRS) Internet connection, which makes it time-consuming to check things. I manage to reestablish a basic site functionality, then rush to pack our stuff.
Thanks to an idiot who used a dumb SQL-injection technique to hack the site to prove to the whole world how brilliant he is, I have to skip breakfast. Will have to edit all scripts when I am back home and close all these SQL-injection holes.

It's 11:10am when we finally leave the hotel and start driving to Bahla. When you travel with small kids it is almost impossible to be up and running in the early morning - there are so many things to pack, do and prepare.

In any case at 12:15pm we reach Bahla, or to be more accurate the Bahla fort. This looks quite impressive from a distance, on a hill overlooking the valley. Too bad that it is currently closed for restauration. The area around the fort is quite interesting and consists of old buildings made with mud.

We explore the area until 1pm, then go to the nearby restaurant. We found it with the Nokia phone navigation system, by looking under the category 'restaurants'. From outside it does not look like anything special, but once again the food is delicious. We have Indian food (chicken Biryani), which tastes very well.

Shirley even says that the Indian food in Oman is better than the Indian food in India. Basically it is so easy to find good Indian food in Oman, because there are so many people from the Indian subcontinent in Oman. Also the fresh fruit juice is delicious. The excellent food is one of the surprises we experience in Oman.

It's 2 something pm when we start driving to the next place, the city of Misfat. This is an old city on the mountains near Bahla, next to a palm oasis. Very photogenic setting. Misfat has an own water spring, which is used by locals for swimming in a pool. In the oasis I see date palms and banana trees.

Empty desert and oases are constant features of Oman. Oases and water wells are everywhere. Maybe in summer things get dryer here, but at the moment there is water in lots of places. I wonder where this water comes from, since it does not rain in this part of the country.

We arrive in Misfat shortly before 3pm and spend half an hour here. It would have been better if we had more time, because it is a very nice place where you can easily spend hours walking around. Hiking should be good and the views are nice.

Now, at 3:30pm starts the long drive to Ibra (200km from Misfat). The road is in a very good state, passing through quite breathtaking scenery. Steep rock formation rising from the empty planes.

We reach the hotel in Ibra at 6:15pm, about one hour earlier than I had thought. And I didn't even drive too fast - in fact I'm being overtaken all the time here in Oman. In the evening we have a dinner in the hotel.

31.12: Ibra -> Al Qabil -> Wadi Bani Khalid -> Al Qabil
Al Qabil resthouse, Al Qabil. 30 OR for a double room with additional mattresses for the chidren. Simple furniture (fridge, TV, no phone. The room consists of two halves, separated by the toilet. Ideal for a family with small kids - the kids will sleep in the other half of the room. Toilet with shower (hot water through a boiler). This place is actualy better than the reviews I read. The resthouse apparently has a restaurant which we however do not try out.
Weather: warm and sunny (strong sun) the whole day. More or less windy. In the evening cold and windy.

We are woken up at 8:40am when the reception calls us to inform us that the breakfast is only available until 9:15am. A bit strange, but we rush to get ready and have breakfast. The breakfast is simple (buffet type) and unimpressive.

After that we pack our stuff and leave the hotel by 11am. Then we head to Ibra city, buy some groceries and have a look at the place. There is basically nothing to see. The old town with its mud brick houses is abandoned and the remaining houses are falling apart, which is a pity because this is a piece of national heritage which will be lost.

Then we drive to Al Qabil, which is very close to Ibra. We check in the Al Qabil resthouse and unload our stuff. After a brief break, around 1:30pm we start driving to Wadi Bani Khalid, thinking of swimming in the pools.

The road to this place is quite straight and smooth until the junction. After that the road climbs on the mountains and has several winding curves. After taking once the wrong road (the Nokia navigation system does not have complete maps of this part of Oman), we reach the destination at 2:30pm. From the parking it's a five minutes walk to the pools.

Quite impressive to find so much water in the middle of the desert. The lower pool is not so deep and would be suitable for the kids to swim in, but the water is quite dirty. The upper pools have cleaner water, but are very deep and there is no gradual increase of water depth. There is a café next to one of the pools, and a path leading to a cave. If you have time available it is possible to trek until the cave (moderate difficulty level, slippery rock however).

Lots of tourists today, some are swimming in the pools. Others, mainly youngsters, enjoy jumping into the water. Lots of small fish in the water. The water is not too cold for swimming.

It's almost 4pm when we start walking back to the car. We reach the hotel around 5:30pm. In the evening we don't do much, except for having dinner in one place and buy again some groceries.

01.01: Al Qabil -> Wahiba desert
Al Areesh desert camp, Wahiba desert. 50 OR for a family room with four beds (one double and three single ones) with attached bathroom. Very basic, no furniture. No fan, no A/C. Electricity from sunset until midnight. Basic bathroom with cold shower.
To get from the room to the bathroom you have to walk over sand, which means that you bring in sand into both the room and bathroom when you use the bathroom.
Dinner and breakfast included (dinner is buffet type, quite good, drinks included). Tea and water are free (you can use the kitchen).
For 50 OR (= 100 Euro) in Germany you would get a double room in a good hotel, but this is the desert and dinner is included. The camp is located about 8km from the main road near Al Qabil. There is a normal road which brings you very close to the camp. The last 500m are on sand. If you have a saloon car, you must leave the car at the normal road.

Weather: warm and sunny, strong sun, somehow windy the whole day. A bit less cool in the evening.

Today we are not rushing so we effectively leave the Al Qabil resthouse at 11:40am. We drive to the Al Mudeiry bedouin village, 3km along the road to Ibra. Half an hour of stop there between 12 and 12:30pm, then we drive to the Sharqiya Sands hotel, where we plan to have lunch. It's the closest decent restaurant according to the navigation system directory.

Lunch there takes a while and we only leave after 2pm. Since Natasha has a constipation problem, we drive into nearby Ibra looking for a pharmacy. The only one we see is closed right now and opens at 4pm. There are also a number of clinics (probably local doctors), also all closed.

So we simply drive to the desert camp. Everything proceeds smoothly until we reach the end of the road and need to cover the last 500m on the sand. Probably because I have zero experience of driving in the sand, and because the car is quite heavy with the four of us and the luggage, we get stuck in the sand in the middle.

So I walk to the camp and get help from the camp staff who come with a 4WD car. Everybody gets out of the car and we put all luggage into the 4WD car. Then the 4WD car pulls our car with a rope out of the sand. A camp staff then shows how to correctly drive in the sand. He drives first the car back to the road, then accellerates considerably and with high speed he breezes over the sand until the camp parking. Interesting, this is how you drive over sand.

We check in and pay the 50 OR for the room. It's almost 3:30pm now. I ask the camp staff to drive us around a bit. For 10 OR somebody will drive us around for 30 minutes, then drop us on a dune overlooking the camp.

At 4:15pm we leave the camp in the 4WD. The drive is like on a rollercoaster. The kids and I are thrilled at the up and down. Only Shirley feels a bit like vomiting. A couple of times I think that the car is going to roll over. In one spot we do the steepest descent by car I've ever done in my life. Really amazing experience. On a dune we stop and the kids start playing in the sand, sliding down the slope, running and jumping. They are really excited about being here.

Then the car drops me off in the hill overlooking the camp and brings Shirley and the kids back to the camp. I walk around, taking some photos, then wait for the sunset at 5:30pm.

After the sunset I walk back to the camp. Very cool to rush down the dune slopes. Being here is great, the only problem are the basic facilities and the strong sun and heat during the day.

There are quite a few tourists in the camp right now (it's peak season). Not all rooms and tents are taken however. The camp is open until May, then reopens in October.

After sunset I meet Shirley and the kids in the main tent where the dining area is. While waiting for dinner, we have some tea in the common area. Dinner is at 7:30pm. After dinner there is a music and dance performance done by local artists.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon