Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wadis, Beaches, Boats and BBq's !

Sunset in the Gulf of Oman and snoopy island 

Heading into the Hijar mountains near Chees 
First post of the year and a late start as its already the end of February. Its been a busy few weeks in Oman with groups coming through and looking for new trips and venues and also having an explore of Oman and the Emirates. I had a friend Anna over to visit for a week which gave for a good chance to unwind and have a look around the area a bit more. We had a few days in both the Emirates and Omans Musandam. On the Emirates side we had a look at the snorkelling around Snoopy island and the reef around it. A huge amount of tropical fish are here including sharks. Its a protected reserve and seems to thrive as a result although all along this coastline it well known for its marine life and diving. We also took a trip down to the Shis pools which sit in the UAE but in order to reach them you drive through Madha a small town surrounded by the UAE but is actually Oman. Its whats known as a counter enclave. This means a small stretch of land which is entirely surrounded by another nation of which in turn that nation is largely surrounded by the host nation. Driving through you notice the signs, flags and images of the Sultan Qoboos start appearing but then as soon as you leave they quickly revert back to the UAE’s. 
We also called in at the Al Bidya mosque. The oldest mosque in the UAE which has been restored and is open to the public to have a look around. Its completely different to any mosque I have seen before and resembles clay domes, very small with two lookout towers situated on a ridge line up above. We had a good look around at the perfect hour for some photos as the sun was dipping.
We also had a great Dhow trip along the Musandam coast. A very unique and special piece of coastline. Omanis whizzing about in power boats along rugged and very rocky cliffs and mountains that make up the coastline. The peninsula runs along to Khasab and situated a mile off shore is Telegraph island which played a significant role in the British Empire but also where the phrase ‘going round the bend’ comes from. 
Entering the Al Bidya mosque 

Evening light from the view point at the mosque over the date plantations and Hijer mountains
The use for the island was a repeater station, communication cables had been laid to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire but also India in order for messages and communiques to be sent. A good fast messaging service was needed to relay instructions and to be able to respond quickly to issues which arose within the colonies hastened on by the Indian mutiny in 1857 and India’s subsequent segregation. This required two people to be stationed there to man the station known as the Persian Gulf Submarine cable. Due to its remote situation, very desolate environment and intense heat would deteriorate the mental condition of those who where stationed there. All they wanted to do was ‘go round the bend’ back to India. The heat here is now building and I put the aircon on this afternoon for the first time since arriving, I cant imagine how unbearable being there in the summer months with no protection from the heat would be, I guess just to compound things in 1860 once the cables where laid the WiFi would have been dial up so desperately slow. it was quite the operation to raise the money to put in deep sea cables which as far as I can gather was raised through taxation in other areas of the colonies. History says that various grants where raised to make this happen but those who delivered the grants where involved in other areas of the empire some in Africa on tea plantations some in Hong Kong whose profits went back to London and where then resent back in grants to projects like this, the same names crop up Lord this or that would often be the funder. I find it interesting to put the parts together, an empire has to sustain and pay for growth itself otherwise it would fail. By taxing an Indian shopkeeper along the Nairobi to Kampala railway in East Africa you can pay an Omani for permission and build a repeater station on the Arabian peninsula. Perhaps another blog for another time.....

Goat in Wadi Bidi
Anna and I also had an explore in the local Wadi Bidi a very impressive canyon just outside of Dibba and finished of with a beach BBQ before I took the drive back across the desert to drop Anna off at the airport. A great chance to spend some time with someone and have an explore around the UAE and also the Musundam. There are many things to do here which are contary to the belief the area is just a large collection of shopping malls and high risers in a giant dust bowl. Escape the city and there is quite an outdoorsy scene. 

Anna in Wadi Al Bidi 
As the sign says !

On one of the viewpoint turrets above the mosque
Tropical fish off the back of the Dhow cruise