THE Bagyura couple from the US were residents in the Sultanate from August 2008 through July 2011. Stefan Bagyura, the then Deputy Chief of Mission at the Austrian Embassy, was on his first visit to Salalah in May 2011.
His wife, Susan Bagyura, had been to Salalah before, but had flown in from Muscat.
Susan recollects one of her greatest joys, while being resident, was the time spent exploring Salalah and the surrounding areas.
“The landscape is breathtaking, creating a sense of peace that is palpable. It was easy to spend hours just looking at nature; whether it was the crystal-clear waves of the Indian Ocean, crabs digging holes on the beach, birds flying where not a sound could be heard except for the flapping of their wings or observing the camels and cows that freely roam about,” she recollects.
Stefan first arrived in the Sultanate during the spring of 1988 and stayed in the InterContinental Muscat.
“The hotel was surrounded by sand and the sea. It was peaceful and tranquil and I quickly realised that wherever I went there was beauty and calm. Trips to Nizwa and other places made the week go by fast. I left Muscat with a good memory, but did not envisage that I will be back in 10 years,” he says.
Stefan returned in 2008 and came for longer than a week. During that time, he watched it grow as schools and universities, highways connecting major cities and paved roads to villages.
During weekends the couple drove into the interior, crossing wadis and climbing the mountains. “But all these good memories stay alive, because the people of Oman helped to bring it to the forefront,” they say.
The Bagyuras made nine international moves and lived in seven countries on four continents but still counts the Sultanate as their favourite country. The couple is now settled in the US and Susan helps people find their dream primary or vacation home in Marco Island, Southwest Florida.
Stefan completed his diplomatic career in December 2013 at the Austrian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City.
Terming her visit as ‘Wonders of Salalah,’ the couple began the journey by driving from Muscat down to Duqm, the port town in Al Wusta Governorate.
She mentions how great strides have been achieved since being there a few months before and were amazed at the progress since their previous visit.
“It was definitely changing from the quiet village to a major port and economic centre,” she recalls.
Leaving the next morning to continue the journey to Salalah was a new beginning as they had not been in the interior south of Duqm previously.
For the most part it was quite bare except for the sound of drilling machines and the movement of camel trains scattered here and there, she recalls.
Between Duqm and Salalah, they observed many mirages. “It was thrilling to personally experience this phenomenon that I had only read about previously and to come into full understanding of how a mirage can trick the eyes,” Susan mentions.
Entering Salalah from the direction of Thamrait, they felt, was very impressive because of the beautiful mountains showcasing the garden city of Salalah and the ocean behind it. As they approached, cows were walking along the road with full right of way. The old world charm brought a smile to their faces as they knew this certainly would not be tolerated in fast-paced cities, she mentions.
Once in Salalah, they immediately understood why it draws people from around the world. The unique attractions like the frankincense trees, banana and coconut farm stands, the Al Baleed Archaeological Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the blow holes by the Marneef cave.
She notes that when the winds are just right, it is like having a second shower for the day, and was fortunate to take photos of the camels along Al Mughsail Beach with the mountain in the distance depicting a camel with its head down drinking from the sea.
Wadi Darbat, a beautiful picnic spot with its amazing waterfalls and plentiful camels also impressed the couple.
After leaving the wadi, they drove to the anti-gravity point near Mirbat. They were amazed to feel the movement of the car being pulled up the mountain road while it was set in neutral mode.
Susan says the approximately 11-hour trip from Muscat to Salalah via the interiors is well worth doing.
She suggests to stop for petrol whenever there is an opportunity, and to keep plenty of water in the car and be aware of camels. Finding a midpoint to relax and regroup before continuing the trip is highly recommended. ‘Enjoy the experience,” she says and concludes.