This past weekend I went on my first journey out of the UAE. There is a wonderful group in town called Al Ain Weekends that organizes activities virtually every weekend. This past weekend the group went on a historical tour to a couple of towns in Oman. (Much to my students’ dismay…turns out there is a lot of superstition about the parts of Oman that I visited).
Our journey started by meeting at the mall and organizing carpools, then we headed to the border. For those of you who don’t know, the city of Al Ain is situated right on the UAE-Oman border. At the first boarder stop we got out of the car and got our passports stamped and paid the fee to exit the UAE. At the next stop, we turned in our paperwork, got our Oman entrance stamp and paid the fee to enter Oman. We were then on our way. It was all quite simple, but a bit time consuming since we were in a group.
Our first stop was in a town called Sulaif. Here we visited an old mud-brick village. Our guide informed us that in ancient times (the dates were a bit fuzzy and hard to place) two different tribes lived within the walls of this village. The city was built three stories high and everything they needed to survive was inside. The site is being fully restored (even making the mud-bricks the old fashioned way), so is not open to the public. We were lucky to be able to see inside. (Click on picture to see larger image–sorry about the formatting, still working on how to do this right).
We then headed toward the town of Bahla, where we checked into our hotel and did a bit more sight-seeing (in the outskirts). First we headed to a living history museum, where we got to see some women working in a traditional way. We also sampled some delicious tea.
Then we headed up to a town built into the side of a mountain, and the nearby oasis. It was my first trip into an actual oasis and I really enjoyed it. It was lovely. The town was interesting as well, the buildings appeared quite old in some places and new in others.
The following day started out with a pottery tour in Bahla. We visited a traditional pottery shop and a more modern one. It was interesting to see the different ways of making pottery. We also stopped at a UNESCO site, aflaj, a natural spring used for irrigation.
We then headed to the town of Nizwa, where we checked out the souq (the shopping area) and the Nizwa fort. The fort offered stunning views of the town and nearby mosque and is itself a very picturesque place.
We then headed back to Bahla and for a visit to the Jibreen Castle. It was so fun to explore these locations, I felt a bit like a real historian. The fort and castle have been restored beautifully. I really enjoyed simply being able to walk around and explore, there were no “do not enter” signs or guards telling you which way to go and what to see. It was refreshing after so many years of only getting to see what someone else wanted me to see. And on top of all this, another country visited! That makes 16!