Paraphrasing James Bond, Torsten and Kirsten Rex are on vacation, and having the experience of their lives in a country that is light years removed from their home in Cologne, Germany.
This fourth largest city in the centre of Europe, with a population of over 1 million, spans the magnificent Rhine River, and is the cultural hub of the Westphalian Region. It’s Gothic inspired Cologne Cathedral with its twin spires and medieval reliquary, its twelve immaculately restored Romanesque churches, and its Ludwig Museum showcasing the diversity of Roman antiquities and Picasso’s artistry, ensure the city is a vibrant, progressive symbol of modernity and cultural significance.
Yet, here are this couple, experiencing much of the heritage, culture, and natural beauty the Sultanate has to offer, during a three week mini-odyssey, “Characterised,” says Torsten, “by the absolutely genuine welcoming nature of the Omanis, which has been amazing, without exception!” The couple made an early decision that Salalah and Musandam would prove outside their timeframe and budget, but, hiring a rental car upon their arrival at the Muscat International Airport, had a ‘loose itinerary’ for their journey, “which we’ve only amended a hundred times” said the teacher and martial arts enthusiast.
So far on their trip they have experienced the “incredible sunset” and the “magnitude and awe” of the Rimal Al Sharqiya, along with the hospitality of the Desert Camp, according to HR executive Kirsten, adding, “We’ve seen the Turtles as Ras Al Jinz Reserve, where the guides were so good at telling the ‘story’ of the turtle phenomenon, and the early morning experience of the females laying their eggs and going back to sea, followed by the sunrise over the Gulf was so natural and pure as to bring tears to your eyes.”
The couple have also seen the old city and Bebe Miriam’s Tomb at Qalhat where they were hosted by Abdullah and Rashid al Shabaani at their guest house overlooking the sea, and visited Wadi Tiwi. They then headed back North to Qantab for a couple of days relaxation, and were interested spectators at the ‘Spartan’ event at Jabal Al Sifah, marvelling at the numbers participating and the growing community with its amazing marina and beach, before travelling on to the Al Dakhiliyah Governorate where there next attractions were all close at hand.
Torsten takes up their story, “Ali al Riyami has lived on Al Jabal Al Akhdhar, and was suggested to accompany us up the mountain, and really, there is nobody he didn’t know, and I think, nowhere he didn’t take us. It is an amazing place with the terraced gardens, old towns, and the scenery all way beyond our expectations, and it was lovely and cool, about 160, I think.
We also did a Wadi trip and finished the day exhausted but happy. Then the next day, a friend took us to the tombs at Zakait, Bait Al Rudaidah, the Al Khatmeen Falaj, the Old Village Birkat Al Mouz, and down into the local farms. We had an early night then, because we had been told that a ‘special day’ awaited us early the next morning.
The ‘special day’ was planned for the couple to take the now renowned Al Nakhur Rim Hike, colloquially known as the ‘Balcony Walk’ at the top of Jabal Shams. Kirsten had expressed her concerns as she has a fear of heights, so it’s appropriate that she gives an account of their day.
“Ali picked us up at 5 am and drove us to the lookout near the top of the mountain. The view down the canyon is amazing itself, but the sun rising, and the shadows changing as the sun reveals more shapes, shadows, and was awe inspiring, and we could see why our friends suggested the early start. It was very fine,” she uttered in that understated manner of someone who speaks English as their second language.
“Then we went to the ‘Balcony Walk’ itself and again Ali was the perfect guide, as we left from Al Khitaym village I did have some hesitant times, but he was very gentle and insistent, and so with his and Torsten’s help we made it to the abandoned village of Al Sab after about 70 minutes.” That people had lived in this village, set into the side of the canyon simply astounded the couple, and they lingered a while in wonder before making the return trek back to Al Khitaym, with Kirsten having a much more relaxed return journey.
Their early start was again vindicated as large numbers of tourists/hikers were just setting out as they returned. “Ali again took us to some wonderful lookout spots, and we saw campers on the plateau,” said Torsten, before having lunch and descending to Misfat Al Abriyeen, where we checked out the farms, where it’s clear the locals make best use of their land, and their water. A scenic drive back ‘home’ was the perfect end to a long, but surprisingly, not exhausting day.”
The couple excitedly showed their photos of the day out and was full of praise for what was “one of the best sightseeing experiences EVER!” Planning visits to the Salut Geological Park, Nizwa Fort and Market, the Grand Mosque, the couple will also enjoy a relaxing night at Jabal Al Sifah to cap their trip, prior to returning home. This wonderfully articulate and intelligent couple are typical of the adventure and activity tourists that are becoming Oman’s best advertisement as a tour destination. “We would recommend this magical country to any intending travellers or adventurers as being like no other, and while we may never return we will hold the memories of all of our trips, and all the people we have met here, especially Ali, dear to our hearts, “ concluded Torsten and Kirsten, “Habibi Oman, it has been amazing.”