Literally translated, Jabal Shams means mountain of the sun. And it is to Jabal Shams that the six of us exchangers (and Katy, one of our AMIDEAST coordinators) sallied forth last Friday morning.
Now, this is where the story gets interesting. The night before we left, I decided against packing as the lights were already off and I was exhausted. So I went to bed. But of course, my careful and well-thought-out (note my sarcasm) thinking had a few tiny flaws. So at 7:30 am (30 minutes after I was supposed to be picked up and on the road), my host aunt came sprinting into my room calling my name and telling me that there was someone here to get me.
At which point I did the scramble over to my closet, followed by my bathroom, and on emerging I found myself staring at Kenzie, who was happily camped out on top of my bed. Fast forward a few minutes and we were driving towards AMIDEAST, laughing at my hastily packed backpack and harried appearance. But that's not what this weekend was about.
To sum it all up:
Friday... we went to Nizwa, a relatively nearby and very historic village. There we visited the fruit and vegetable souq briefly (where I tried a white chocolate covered date, as well as fresh helwa - a traditional Omani sweet) before we heading into Nizwa Fort. We saw lots of beautiful views and snapped way too many pictures before being turned loose (in pairs, they don't trust us that much) into the main souq. Here I made some purchases, including gifts for my grandmother and parents. In the parking lot we bought a communal crate of pomegranates, and over the course of the weekend their numbers diminished rapidly as we ate them. After leaving Nizwa we made a visit to a beautiful mountain village that sprawls up and down the mountain-side, and once again our cameras appeared to capture the natural beauty of the rare greenery. Our next stop was Jabal Shams, the mountain we spent the night on, and the first things we did when we got there were take some photos beside a stunning canyon and take a hike along a trail that skirted its edges. That night we built a fire outside our "tents" (I use quotes because they were more like fancy hotel rooms covered in tarps... They even had keys) and sang songs like Wagon Wheel as the stars came out.
Saturday... we left the place we had spent the night (I'm honestly not sure what to call it; campground doesn't seem accurate) and headed to a pottery studio in a nearby town. We watched the skilled potters make their vases and cups rapidly before each taking a painful turn at the wheel and turning out six nutbowls of varying lumpiness and curvature. But it was all very fun, so I'm excited to get mine back. After pottery it was time for lunch, and before long we found ourselves heading home to our host families.
I realize that my descriptions are a bit hasty... But if I truly took the time to tell every minute detail this post would take well over a week to write - something I cannot even begin to fathom. But in short, it was a truly amazing weekend that really served to impress upon me, yet again, how amazing this country is.
To cap it all off, on Sunday night we had a very special opportunity. The Assistant Secretary of the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the United States, Evan Ryan, was in Muscat, and we were invited to a dinner with her and some others (Fulbright scholars studying in Muscat, people working at the local U.S. Embassy, etc.). I really enjoyed talking to everyone, and I think it's amazing that Ms. Ryan took the time to come and meet with us all during her time here in Oman.
Here's to adventure, and excitement, and all the things that make life worthwhile.
🎶Wagon Wheel - Darius Rucker🎶
Hi! My name is Karla Cox. This blog is a compilation of notes, thoughts, and photos from my travels around the world.