Monday, June 27, 2022 | Dhu al-Qaadah 27, 1443 H
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OMAN
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

The adventure of a blonde and a very old car

“This seems like a great place to camp”, Mrs J agreed, looking out of the car window “it’s high up, it’s lovely cool and green. Perfect for camping”.


Or so we thought.


We were on our way back from Dhofar’s famed baobab tree forest and had brought all our camping gears, hastily squeezed into the rented Yaris. With our otherwise reliable Pajero still in the workshop undergoing open-heart surgery, we had decided to test our rental car and leave our cosy hotel room in Salalah. Fresh air and at one with nature — just what we needed.


Mrs J was scanning the area for the perfect camping site while we cruised along. “Yikes, not near that thing”, she grimaced and pointed to a large bloated dead cow left by the side of the road, no doubt meant for the sanitation truck to collect at some point. She shivered in disgust as we passed the cow carcass. “Oh look, at the dog trying to get a chunk of the cow”, she squealed. I caught a glimpse of a scruffy looking animal with large pointy ears trying its hardest to pull one of the hind legs off the dead cow. Quite a task for this skinny-legged dog. We drove on in silence for another few long seconds, taking in what we had just witnessed. Then, looking at each other in horror and almost in unison we cried “That wasn’t a dog, was it? What was that? It can’t have been..?”


Surely we hadn’t just watched a real-life wolf trying to tear a leg of a dead cow? Were there even wolves in the Sultanate of Oman?


I gently eased the Yaris into reverse, and slowly, slowly inched back towards the crime scene. He was still there. There was no doubt about it; this was no dog. The poor animal, normally very shy and elusive, was probably starving and therefore prepared to take the risk of being seen, for the chance of a big meal. He pulled at the leg and managed to drag the carcass a meter or so away from the roadside.


Turning the car engine off so as not to startle the animal, I slowly reached for my camera on the backseat. Out of the corner of his eye, the wolf noticed us. Mrs J locked her passenger door. “He might be a wolf, but I’m pretty sure he can’t open doors”, I whispered and rolled my eyes. “I’m taking no chances”, Mrs J whispered back “think of Little Red Riding Hood. Did you ever wonder how the wolf got into Grandma’s cottage in the first place???”


By now the wolf was getting wary of us and torn between his hunger and his urge to flee. His survival instinct won, and he trotted off tentatively looking over his shoulder to make sure we weren’t following. Annoyed with myself for not getting a photo, we were about to set off again, when a movement caught my eye. And there, on the other side of the road, was another wolf - this one with its cub. Without thinking I threw open the door and raced towards them with my camera.


I guess one of the reasons wolves have survived man for so long, is that they can run a lot faster. I didn’t stand a chance. By the time I had clambered up the embankment and focused my camera, the little wolf family was nothing but dots against the horizon.


Back in the car, the adrenalin rush caught up with me and I started to shake. “I can’t believe I ran with wolves”. “That sounds like a title of a movie”, Mrs J laughed “with Kevin Costner perhaps”.


If we had done our homework, we would have realised that Arabic wolves (Canis lupus arabs) could indeed be found in Dhofar and especially in the area we were driving through. Packs of up to 12 wolves had been photographed by wildlife camera traps in the Wadi Atayr area and locals reported how wolves would at times kill young of both goats, cows and even camels. Being scavengers, they would also eat roadkill or dead livestock, like in the case we had just witnessed.


We sat for a while in silence. “So, back to the hotel in Salalah?” Mrs J turned and looked at all the camping gear. “You bet”, she nodded.


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