UNSETTLED and nostalgic from her recent visit to the Sultanate, Linda Hawkins from Wairoa, New Zealand’s North Island, is is craving to come back again. Fascinated by Omani halwa, pomegranate juices from Jebel Akhdar and swimming along the Coast of Masirah Island, she lived every moment of her stay here.
Embraced by an omen of goodwill that followed her throughout her short stay, she admires sailing along Oman’s long coastline and prefers travelling up through the Red Sea. She loves the sea having lived on Alize, their yacht for some time.
Watching flamingoes on the beaches of Masirah Island was a delight and the Blue swimmer crabs she says are similar to those off the north eastern coast of Australia. She along with Dianna, her co-traveller, tasted delicious sea food dinner during their last night in Oman and thanked the fisherwoman in Masirah for her kind hospitality.
Surprisingly many from her small coastal village of Wairoa of 4,000 people had earlier lived in Oman. The Leon and Jane Fulchure couple who worked in the Middle East for years always preferred Oman for their holidays. After their visit they presented Linda a beautiful embroidered gold silk collected from Arabia and with this she designed her long sleeved shiny length of robe or Abaya. “It truly shone in the sands of Masirah and made me feel at one with the surrounds,” she recollects.
The duo was driven to the magnificent Hajar Mountains range upon arrival. Jebel Akhdar, according to her, is where Hawks soar past sheer rock walls and down valleys of stone of many colours, textures and geological history. These stones heaved up forming obscure stratus and oblique angles that engaged her imagination of time immortal.
Her senses were on high alert for the next 10 days of her stay breathing in clean air infused with fragrances indiscernible. Daily jugs of water laced with exotic herbs spices and cinnamon citrus petals were the highlight. Upon arrival at the mountain top, she spent four days in an accommodation that blended into surrounds seamlessly; buildings nestled into the landscape clad in the same stone that surrounded the site. Perched on the edge of a precipice were immense views down a gorge with breathtaking views.
She spent much time observing the sweet quietude of the people and felt strange. At Jabal Akhdar, a place where time seemed to stand still, has a culture that learned to endure long waiting times, and given a place where one accepts its fellow traveller with humility yet at the same time maintains a pride of place.
In Muscat she was ‘spoilt for choices’ and booked herself onto a dive boat to enjoy the beauty of the tropical fish and turtles. The marine life was so reachable and untouched, so close to shore. She dived and was amazed to see marine life only 20 metres off shore which was better than her dive on the outer ‘Great Barrier Reef’ in Australia two years back.
“Oman has a treasure which must be preserved,” she says. At Royal Opera House Muscat, ‘The Sleepwalker,’ an Opera by Bellini was a joy to behold, which she and Dianna enjoyed with a chorus of voices reaching such heights and feared the crystal chandeliers to shatter.
The ‘Pitt stop’ along the way to Jabal Akhdar where welcome cool water is provided in earthen jars amazed her. Impressed by the generous supply of water wherever one travelled right from underground aquaphor (falaj), springs to across the conversion plants that provided water for the cities and beyond.
Linda owns stunning Riverhouses at Wairoa. She worked in the architectural industry as a designer and possesses dual citizenship of Australia, New Zealand. She now manages a holiday accommodation business and a retail shop where she collects fashion pieces and designs clothes.
Says Dianna from Melbourne who works as a bookkeeper and accompanied Linda: “The tranquility and peacefulness at the Green Mountain and trekking through the mountains experiencing the terrain that had not been drenched for years. Visiting the historical village and entering the abandoned houses comprehending how tough survival would have been. The waters off Shangri La and swimming among the fishes and turtles above reefs largely unaffected of pollution, the cleanliness of the countryside and cities all shows up its uniqueness.”
At Masirah Island, she stayed on a remote beach in a modest comfortable accommodation, swimming in the crystal clear waters by day and walked out on the very low ebb tide early morning to visit the outcrop of islands. Fishermen and women were catching their daily food of variety of fishes, she recollects. Evenings were reserved for fresh seafood for dinner and a stroll to the camel enclosure where a baby camel was just born. Both the mother and surrogate mother looked pleased to be stroked in congratulatory acknowledgement of the young one. She acknowledges having ‘merely touched the surface’ of a very special land and hopes to come back to immerse herself in its beauty again.
Mansoor Al Majali who races camels accompanied the tourist duo to the Island. He plans to visit Down Under to develop a fish farm and the Australian desert for camel racing. Linda loves the spices and aromas which were exceptional particularly the Omani perfumes and olives which intoxicates her senses. Vowed by the architectural beauty of Grand Mosque she was however disappointed not to hear the call to prayers and found the chanting so melodic.
She flew back to Melbourne with gifts from Oman for the family, presenting her son Dion and Ton, son-in-law, with the traditional khandurah and kuma bought from Muttrah souq.
Calling herself a lone independent traveller and a thinker who cares for the environment and politics, Linda likes watching old flicks and reading books. Presently she is completing Richard Burton’s Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Mecca published in 1860. The book has given her enough insights into the Arabic culture the terrain and beyond to prepare for her next trip to the region soon.