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OMAN    INFO & DIARY  1

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Sultanate of Oman is an Unitary parliamentary absolute monarchy, covering 309.500 square kilometres in-between the Gulf of Oman, the Arabic Sea, United Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is the home to 4.748.417 citizens, of which 86% are Muslims, 6,5% Christians and 5,5% Hindu.
The currency is Rial, worth 16,31 Danish Krone and 2,19. The GDP is US$71,325 billion.
Oman receives little rainfall, with annual rainfall in Muscat averaging 100 millimetres, falling mostly in January. In the south, the Dhofar Mountains area near Salalah has a tropical-like climate and receives seasonal rainfall from late June to late September as a result of monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean, leaving the summer air saturated with cool moisture and heavy fog.
Among the larger mammals, here are some Cape hyrax, Procavia capensis, Asiatic cheetah Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, Caracal, Caracal caracal, Arabian leopard, Panthera pardus nimr, Common genet, Genetta genetta, Striped hyena, Hyaena hyaena, Blanford's fox, Vulpes cana, Ruppell's fox Vulpes ruppellii, Golden jackal, Canis aureus, Gray wolf, Canis lupus, Mountain gazelle, Gazella gazella, Goitered gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa, Wild goat, Capra aegagrus, Nubian ibex, Capra nubiana  along with the Arabian oryx, Oryx leucoryx.
Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found in Oman, but vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert. I will in particular be looking for the Dracaena serrulata, Adenium arabicum, Euphorbia longetuberculosa, Anomalluma mccoyi, Boswellia sacra, Dorstenia foetida, Ficus vasta and Talinum cuneifolium,  which I have worked with, although they might be hard to find? I hope I will find more interesting plants, especially in the fare south-western part.

DIARY
5. A short flight from Bahrain bring me to Muscat. I get visa, cash, water and a car within 50 minutes, and start exploring. Considering how much I am going to drive, I have upgraded myself a bit regarding the car. Budget upgrades me additionally, and I get a brand new car: Not really what I hoped for (as I probably will "use it" quite some) but hard to complain about!
 I drive through the big and real modern city and find the southern coastal road. Already before it clears the city, the mountains start. Here are huge trees and perfect green areas along the road, although it is a desert. Must take a huge amount of cleaned seawater! It is the Bandar Khayran road, and it is an absolutely treat.
Soon, the buildings clear away, and it start winding its way through the dry mountains. At first, it seems like they are barren, but a second look reveals acacia bushes and in the lover part, several different herbs and small bushes. It is in the end of the eleven months dry season, and many have shredded their leaves.

I do several breath stops and a longer, perhaps in the Wadi Mayh? Anyway, I see some real interesting plants, of which several is actually flowering! Here are several cadavers of goats, and it seems like here might be donkeys! They have taken their part of the herbs, I guess.
I follow the wadis to the sides, and start climbing the rocks. It appears to be mainly black marble, and only the acacias make it here. Here are several species, and I document them along with the smaller bushes in the river floor.

The roads splits up, and I chose the coastal road. It leads through narrow gorges and I have to do some more botanising. An Euphorbia look familiar - but so many look this way. A few small lizards hides, but beside from them, I see no animals at all. Never the less, I will have to watch-out for snakes in the rocks.
A strange wet area is found along the road, and it turns out to be the sea, which reaches in at flood. I find an access to the bay, and it seems so strange to see boats here. The sea is hidden behind the mountains, and I can't get to it.
A but further up the road, I find a small village, and shop some buns and bananas in their single shop. Another road leads towards the sea, and I give it a go. It leads pass a mangrove area, and end up on a high hill, overseeing a bay with perfect, blue water. Here are several caves - although small.
Back at the lagoon and mangrove, I find some new succulents. One of them being real green, while the other is red.

I spot some small bushes with real fat stems on the hillsides, and walk up there, hoping for a Burseraceae. They are all dormant, only bearing a few fruits, and my guess is Commiphora foliacea, C. kua, or C. quercifoliola. Leaves would have been a help!
I continues before I get too many photos of them, and stop at a tiny fishing village, which have a lot of goats and some donkeys too. I find a cup of milk-tea, and walk down to the coast through the old buildings. At the beach a few, small boats are fund along with some ragged sheds. The beach, on the other hand look perfect. A single crow sit on a pole, overlooking the water.
I walk back through the narrow and goat-dropping filled alleys, and try to photos some, without offending the inhabitants.

The road is getting narrow, and I end up in gravel. This coastal road terminates here, roughly 75 kilometres from Muscat. My hotel is additional 75 kilometres further south - on the other side of the mountains. I must go back through central Muscat to catch the southern road.
The sun is disappearing behind the mountains, and it is clear to me; I will have to drive through the darkness. The road is great, although I could have done without the speed-cameras each kilometre! The speed limits are changing from 80 over 100 to 120 all the time, and the locals seem to be able to remember each camera. I just have to stay focused. The sun disappears at five, and half a hour later, it is pitch dark.
I reach the large city of Sur, and drive right to the hotel. It is the same price-class as I used in the Emirates and Bahrain, but from the usual four stars, it only have one. Well, the madras is good, it is fairly quiet and clean, and here are hot water.
Next door is a restaurant, but the cook refuses to serve a meal without some fried animal. The next one just say no - I think, as English apparently are not as common as in the Emirates and Bahrain.
I stock some bisques and bananas and a cup of tea, but just before I get back to the hotel, a fifth restaurant lures me in. A real friendly Egyptian persuade the cook to make me a salad, some homemade humus and steamed and slightly spiced long rice. It is served with a homemade, slightly strong and real tasteful sauce. Real delightful, and I only have to pay one rial! I know where I go tomorrow, as I am going to stay in Sur for two nights.
Photos of the day:
Day 1; south of Muscat

6. I start the day, looping back the coastal highway towards north, as I missed the last bit yesterday due to the lack of light. It is through coastal mountains and tiny, sandy villages. I stop several times at the perfect beach and collect a few shells. The road accent into the coastal hills, and here are a great view over the deep-blue sea.
I drive through the little village of Tawi, and see a lot of birds on the rocks in the bay. Cormorants, herons and seagulls at least. The opening of the huge Wadi Shab is more or less hidden behind the highway bridge. Further in, a wall close it, and it is in the shadows. Not what I have hoped for!

I return to Sur and find the 200 year old Bilad Sur Castle, which turns out to be a classic desert fort. I see a single Indian Roller, Coracias benghalensis and a group of the invasive Ring-necked Parakeet, Psittacula krameri.
Back on the street, I pass a group of men, watching a truck with cattle on. Can't be a good day for the cattle!

I find the inland road towards the south, and make a lot of stops in the desert to botanise. Besides from several species of Acacia, here are quite some other plants, and the scenery is fantastic. In the town of Al Kamil, I see some mud-ruins, although I have no idea what they are.
I reach the ancient desert town of Jalan Bani Buali, but quite frankly, I fail to find any interesting features. I do find the old and narrow alleys, but the shops are quite modern, although small. A bit outside town, a large area is filled with hay, which must be imported. I have seen a few overloaded trucks on the highway.

From here, I head out towards the sea through desert and dunes. Small sheets give shelter for goats and shepherds, but besides from imported hay, here are not much for them to eat.
When the road meet the sea, a few small villages occurs. Their alleys are filled with sand, the mosque small, but some call it home. The beach is perfect, and I find a few dead fish, conks and octopus things.
On the other side of the road, a new landscape is found. It is created by a new plant, forming small hills by the shifting sand.
I try some of the sandy trails, but the shifting sand are a huge challenge for the car - and me. Some areas are limestone, others ancient limestone: Marble in different colours from greyish over red to black. I see some new small bushes, but it take me quite some time to find one with leaves, and it even have flowers. It is the Talinum cuneifolium I have hoped to find. In the same area, some other plants are flowering as well, two being Fabaceae.

I pass some tents, which look like Bedouins, although a bit permanent. A few goats are found around, but no vegetation at all. I stop for tea in a tiny, one shop village, and drive down to the coast. Here, the local fishermen are unloading their catch into pick-ups, which have isolated boxes with ice.
I have 200 kilometres home, and the sun is getting suspicious low. I take the coastal road the entire way to Sur, and do several stops on the way. One are have huge sand dunes, another old sandstone, torn around to strange mountains.
I have seen some camels way out on the fields, but here; they are close to the road. Actually; they cross it right in front of me. As the sun decent, the landscape is covered in a warm, red colour. The last bit back to Sur is in darkness, and I almost hit a lake on the road. Apparently, the high-tide floods the road?
Supper at the same place, and they torch in a few delicatessens. Back to work, plan and sleep.
Photos of the day: Wadi Shab, Bilad Sur Castle, Jalan Bani Buali, coastal road, dunes.

7. I'm up early, while it is still dark, but I have a long journey in front of me. I gas the car, then start with the 200 kilometres along the coast, I finished up with yesterday. Then I continue along the cost to the island of Masirah. From here, it is inland to Haima. I do many stops on the new part of the costal road, and every time, I find a new plant or two.
Most areas are flat with two or three different succulents. Other areas have Acacias, while some are more rocky. Again, I find flowers in several of the plants.
Here are a few scatted fishing villages, some have a single coffee-shop - selling tea and sandwiches. In some places, the tea is just a Lipton bag in a tiny paper-cup , added can-milk. In others, it is pre-made Chai, made on milk and added spices like cinnamon or actual masala.
After the road passes the island of Masirah, it turns inland, and follow the coast 10-30 kilometres in. Here are no more settlements, except from some rare tents or shelters. The landscape changes slightly, and I find some new plants.
Where the road meet the inland road, a tiny town offers petrol and Bangladeshi lunch. I go for both, although it is only eleven. But you never know when you get the offer again, in these remote parts!

The road towards Duqm have dunes and small rocky mountains. When the road meet a ridge, I go exploring in a canyon. It have some great motives and a little woody plant I can't recognise. While this ridge were made from black ancient coral reef, the next is made from bright white limestone.
Then, a single oasis is found right next to the road. It have grasses, palms and even fish in the salty water.
The plants are getting more and more scares, but the lover parts have quite some Acacias. Actually, to see it is a lover part of this flat landscape, one have to look for Acacias.
While I photo the minute flowers of a Euphorbia-looking Asclepiadaceae, a flycatcher land right next to me. I don't see many birds; a single crow and seagulls at the most.

The last 200 kilometres are kind of dull: The landscape is completely flat, and here are barely any plants. A sign show of to Al Wusta Wetland Reserve. It is a washing-board road, and when I look at the map, I figure there are 50 kilometres to the coast. Not today!
 I speed, and reach Haima at five, after 730 kilometres. It is a tiny town at a junction, and the major part is the L shaped building at the gas station. I gas the car (again!), but can't pay, as I'm out of cash. The nearby bank have an ATM, and I pay my bill.
Here are several Super Markets, and I try one. To my big surprise, it is significantly more posh, than the one I have at home! I find a thermo mug with a lit for my endless line of teas, and even some muesli, which I have given up on.
I do a big loop around town. It is a new town, finding its feet, it seem. Huge areas are barren sand, and a few other shops are found scattered among the houses.
A Bangladesh owed restaurant serve me two great veggie-burgers and a double tea in my new mug for one rial.
The sun is descending, and I head home to work.        Day 3: The eastern coast, northern half.

8. I am heading further down south. The first 100 kilometres is through an almost bight white desert without any plants. Then it turn into a light brown desert with a few plants. Then I pass a shallow wadi right after the village of Shelim, and here are plants to be found. Even a few, black beetles run around on the rocks. I make a short stop at here, to stock chai. A bit further on, the oil-drilling start, and the plants almost vanishes. I meet some huge trucks, but apparently not the biggest: The electrical wires have warnings; "15 m" - I like to see that truck!
I turn out towards the sea on a 50 kilometre long gravel road. The first part is more smooth than a sealed - the rest not! I pass a single colony of what look like a plant that have renegadeed a nursery. But not only does it thrive here; it is covered in large flowers!
After 300 kilometres, I reach the sea and the low mountains, made from limestone and ancient coral reef. This is where adventure and botany starts! Here are sinkholes and I explore several, as they have their own vegetation. One have a strange vine, but unfortunately without leaves. Another plant puzzles me; it does have leaves, but I have no clue to which family it belong. It have small hooks on the end of the lush, green and almost succulent leaves.

 At first, I drive along the mountains, and although here are hardly any plants, the motives with the ancient limestone are great. Then, the road cuts right through them, and the endless of layers are revealed. Then the road cut down to a plain with camels and acacias, before it meet the sea .I do a few stops along the beach. Here are perfect sand, quite some dead fish and only a few shells. A small village offers chai, but no petrol.
Then the mountains meet the sea, and the road is cut right into them, all the way to the top. The vegetation changes and I start doing long walks. It is a rather new road, and they have even made parking at the obvious view-points. And here are a lot! I do some drives off-road, and up on a tall hill, I find some amassing ancient corals and a lot of black flint. And the view are absolutely amassing!

Among the rather few plants, I re-find the really sticky Lamiaceae. Here, it is almost bonsai-like. The limestone is in all kind of stages, worn down by ancient rain and petrified. Out to the east, the deep blue sea is visible. A deep canon is cut through the limestone, and the layers are clear.
Then one huge canyon is replaces by one even bigger and more amassing. Here are only a very few plants, but I have to stop a lot of times, just to get "the perfect motive".
As I reach the upper plateau, some larger plants emerges. One look like a suspicious fat Acacia, but I only see a few. They do not appear to be animal pruned. Then I realises; I have found the true Commiphora myrrha. It is one of the primary trees used in the production of myrrh, a resin made from dried tree sap. Where I find a few other of the fat Commiphora sp. all dormant, most of the C. myrrha are almost in full growth. They tend to grow just below the edge of the mountains, and are a bit hard to get to.

On the plateau, the vegetation is surprisingly like the one in the plains. But the views down the huge canyons to east, and the slightly green to the west are fantastic. That said, it is depressingly how alike all the "great" photos look in the evening.
Then, on the edge of one of these giant cliffs, I find what look like a butter-cup flower? Additionally, it have some strange, white fruits. A couple of canyons later, I find another strange plant I can't place. The next canyon have a wildly flowering Acacia, which attract flies and even butterflies - the first I see.
Nearby, someone have planed to harvest the resin of the C. myrrha: The stem have some nasty brushings and cuttings.

As the road - and mountains - reach the sea, an oasis sits on the point. Here are several camels, palms and I wished I could spend a bit more time. However, all the time I saved speeding in the dull parts are lost in the 100 kilometres of mountains - and then some! Then I reach the coolest resting place ever! A mushroom-shaped rock offers shade for the cars and people, at a fantastic viewing point.

I reach the sea at Hasik, and despite the entire beach is in the shadow of the mountains, I make a short stroll on the rolling rocks. It look so much like Stevns Klint in Denmark. Here are numerous and different shells and other animal debris. I turn into Hasik for gas and chai, and head straight on towards Taqah. The GPS guess on two hours, 45 minutes, but I only have 90 minutes of daylight left, and I would like to check-out the fort, while I'm there.
I shift mode from photo- and botanising mode to race, and the road along the sea and then through the mountains are a thrill! I must have been designed by Herman Tilke! The few, slow locals are easily passed, only a few camels crosses the road, and I reach the fort with five minutes of daylight to spare. I'm glad I see it now, instead of driving 50 kilometres back in the morning: It is not interesting at all.
Only 50 kilometres to my booked hotel in Salalah. It turns out to be an entire apartment with two bedrooms, a living room, two toilets and a kitchen! I grab supper at a nearby coffee-house, and with a mug of chai, I head home to work on the 500 photos of the day. They end up with 164 in a slideshow. It is a pity; the more I experiences, the shorter the diary get!
From the north, I now enters the southern Oman in Diary 2.

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3