HeaderGraphicsLeftHome

Gulf of Oman, UAE
Saturday, January 20, 2001

On Saturday we crossed the country to see the Gulf of Oman coast.  Our first stop was at University City.  This collection of English language universities was started from scratch and plopped into the middle of the desert outside Dubai city a couple of years ago.  It might house 10,000 students.  The anchor institution is an extension of American University.  University City is the most beautiful and ostentatious set of academic buildings you've ever seen.  There are grand boulevards, heavy, ornate fences and gates surrounding each facility and immense, polished-marble plazas.  All this is trimmed with massive, brightly colored formal gardens, everywhere.  Keep in mind that this place is completely surrounded by miles of desert.  Build it and they will come!


Polished Marble at American University
Polished Marble at American University

Continuing on our way we crossed miles of scrub desert, camels grazing on fenced-in land and through increasingly dune-like desert.  At the town of Masafi we turned south through the Hajar Mountains.  Our next stop was at an old fort in the small town of Bithnah. Bithnah Fort commanded a strategic route through the Hajar mountains.  Though partially collapsed, there still appeared to be only one entrance and it was locked.  However, an old man appeared inside the fort and bade us to go the door while he slowly made his way to let us in.  He motioned for us to explore the one mostly intact tower.  We did so, passing through the room where he apparently lived.  As we were about to leave the old man held out his hand.  Nat negotiated with him and we ended up giving him an apple, Coke and granola bars and ten dirhams (about US$2.50).  A few days later in Dubai we happened upon a postcard captioned "Old man at Fort Bithnah."  We wondered what he got paid for the pose.


Bithnah Fort
Bithnah Fort

We came to the Gulf of Oman at the town of Fujairah.  This is a modern, medium sized town with wide streets, lots of shopping and plenty of construction underway.  Just to the north of town we located Al Bidyah Mosque, thought to be the oldest Mosque in the emirate of Dubai.  Carbon dating has established the existence of the structure to as early as 1446 AD.  It is still used actively and, although we were allowed to photograph the outside, there was a sign that forbade entrance to non-Muslims.


Bidyah Mosque
Bidyah Mosque

Seaside View
Seaside View

We continued north along the coast road, through several smaller towns, all with lots of construction going on.  We drove past fishing beaches with their boats high out of the water and their nets set out to dry.  We stopped at lunch time for a picnic on the beach.  There, we watched people surf fishing with poles and with hand lines.  They didn't seem to be having much luck.  We examined one of the fishing boats with its nets and tried our best to rescue a small crab that was stranded on the sand.


Traditional Gate Decoration
Traditional Gate Decoration

Roadside Market
Roadside Market

At the town of Dibba, near the border of the northern section of Oman, we turned back though the barren, red mountains.  As we drove we began to see increasingly deep wadis.  These are creek beds with steep banks that are normally dry.  However, when it rains in the mountains they can fill without warning, washing away everything in their paths.  We stopped at one to take a picture and found two old cars pinned where culverts directed the flow under the road.  When we returned to Masafi, we took time to explore its roadside market to look at produce and buy bananas.  We especially admired the piles of dried sardines offered for sale.  These are not packaged.  They are emptied from the nets, dried directly on the sand at the beach and sold by the kilogram at market.  Yummy!