I was offered the chance to stay in Muscat again for a few days so, this morning headed across the border, and meandered my way across the plains and mountains to the Indian Ocean.
My first stop was Dhank, I’d previously passed the sign many times and pondered if it lived up to its name in English, meaning grey, dark, depressive. Pleased to report it wasn’t, just a quiet country town typical of Oman. My friend Mariam’s grandparents come from around here and it must have been a difficult existence before roads, electricity and mobile phones came to the area!
For a small town it has a large mosque with a dome of note – really beautifully tiled; the photo doesn’t do it justice. I carried on through and found myself at Wosta, a small village on one side of the road and an oasis with a very old derelict fort on the other.
I spent a pleasant few minutes walking round the perimeter, trying to get a good shot of the fort with the mountains behind and no power lines. By the way the roads are incredibly narrow so if you have a chunky 4×4 you may wish to park on the gravel before you enter the oasis.
On the way back to the main road I saw this
A volleyball or netball court? Not something you expect to see in rural Oman. Football pitches yes, as the Arabs are all fitba’ daft and indeed there is one just along the road!
The next large town I came to was Ibri. We have been through here on many occasions and it has served us well as a fuelling stop when coming out of the empty quarter, a place to lay our heads when we have been too tired to contemplate the Oman/UAE border crossing after one of our mega expeditions, or indeed a town which has a great selection of cheap curry houses to sustain us through said border crossing and onwards to home.
I noticed a brown tourist sign indicating “Ibri Castle, 2.5kms” so I took the turning then followed the road for a lot longer than 2.5kms. The next sign must have been hidden or maybe didn’t exist; I think I have said before that signage in the Middle East can be a bit patchy at times. Eventually I saw another sign for the castle and after a few hundred metres I was alongside a derelict old town tucked in at the base of a mountain.
I got a few funny looks as I headed up the street armed with my camera, I could almost see the locals thinking how strange I was to want to go and wander round a deserted tumbledown ghost town when I could be visiting their beautiful clean, tidy recently renovated castle down the road.
The walk was well worth it, I’m no archaeologist but it’s easy to imagine kids playing hide and seek here amongst the many nooks and crannies;
villagers using their donkeys to carry vast sacks of rice and flour up to their homes;
and the men gathering over ghawah and dates in their majlis to discuss the business of the village.
Look at the beautiful red-brown painting on the timbers, still vibrant many years after abandoment!
I did eventually find the castle, though didn’t stop to take a phot of it, and have marked the waypoint for a visit next time we are in Ibri. The road from there back to the main thoroughfare goes through more old town and also some date plantations with interesting looking falaj systems.
Ibri is definitely worth a second look!
Waypoints and routes available on request. Will upload more photos to my facebook page omce I am back in the UAE.