Thursday, August 16, 2007
Should I go to Oman?
I’ve been blowing hot and cold about Oman. It is next door to Yemen, where I am set to spend the Christmas holidays. Both are just below Saudi Arabia’s Rub ’al Khali aka the Empty Quarter, that huge piece of desert traversed by St. John Philby, father of super spy Kim Philby. I had thought to combine trips to the two countries but then found I couldn’t simply take a shared cab or bus across the border, from one to the other, since one tour ends in Sana”a and the other begins in Muscat, both at opposite ends of the Arabian peninsula.
I did consider combining Yemen with Djibouti and Eritrea but then, wanted to save those two as add-ons to another Ethiopian trip that would take me into the Danakil and then down into the Omo Valley - from one end of the country to another. I have been in the north on the so-called Historical Circuit, including briefly hiking and camping in the Simien Mountains. At the time I was in nearby Aksum, during February-March this year, some British embassy personnel exploring in the Danakil were abducted, likely by Eritreans; they were released soon thereafter. The threat of sending in the SAS might have done it. Seems things have been peaceful since.
Back to Yemen-Oman: as it develops, there is a flight connecting the two countries via Dubai, where I would end up anyway after travel in Oman. Part of that time I would be on a dhou. Since I have done the Bedouin tent sleepover several times with groups of twelve or more, sleeping on a dhou couldn’t be that bad. The Imaginative Traveler Yemen tour ends on 5 Jan; I fly from Sana’a to to Muscat via Dubai and start the Oman tour on the same day. It works!
Oman got really interesting when I was rereading - skimming really - Michael Asher’s Shoot to Kill, the story of his experiences with the British Parachute Regiment and the SAS. His SAS colonel was noted for defusing an angry crowd in Jakarta by patrolling the street outside with clan kilt and bagpipes; also had been awarded an MC for action in Oman - my kind of guy! That decided me. I would combine Yemen with Explore’s Oman tour. Fifteen days in Yemen, mostly in the desert; then eight days in Oman, mostly on the water.