On Thursday night Josh and I packed our bags and headed out for a relaxing mini vacation in Ras Al Khaima. Josh is on spring break from school, and because we hadn’t yet seen much of UAE outside of our Abu Dhabi hometown, I planned a trip to visit the country’s northernmost emirate. We arrived in Ras Al Khaima on Thursday night, did a little exploring around our hotel, ate dinner, and turned in with a 6:30 a.m. alarm set for the next day.
Here comes a side story because I reminded myself of something else in that last sentence. It happens. Do you think that “turning in” is a Southern phrase? Josh and I watched the movie Mud last week which was really good. You should add it to your Netflix watch list now. I’ll wait. The family lives in Mississippi, and in one scene the mother asks her son (imagine this said with a Southern twang), “Are you hungry? Want me to fix you somethin’? Alright then, I’m gonna turn in.” (That isn’t an exact quote; I’m going from memory here.) Josh deemed the phrases “fix you somethin'” and “turn in” as two distinctively Southern phrases. What do you think? I’m not a good judge of these things.
Back to my weekend story… Friday morning came and we set off for Khasab, Oman, the starting point of our dhow cruise. What is a dhow cruise, you ask? Is that anything like a show cruise where the author (me) accidentally types a letter “d” instead of “s”? Yes, I can see how you might think that, but then you would be wrong. This is how Wikipedia explains it: “Dhow (Arabic داو dāw) is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region.” I’m sure that cleared things up for you.
Driving through Ras Al Khaima on the way to Oman introduced me to a setting like I had never encountered before. Goats and cows roamed freely. The cows particularly took a liking to the medians of the four-lane roads. At times I could have reached my hand out of the driver’s side window to pet a bull. Half-constructed buildings littered the sides of the roads. Scrap metal and mud and tarnished signs in arabic finished off the landscape. Unique indeed.
Arriving at the UAE/Oman border, we spent a few minutes waiting for stamps and watched goats inch closer to the guards standing post outside, probably in hopes of receiving a morsel of food. The goats that is, not the guards. I wish I had pictures of these scenes; however, pictures taken from the inside of a car never turn out like you hope, and since photography isn’t allowed at the border checkpoints I have nothing to show from that experience either.
The drive along the coast in Oman was stunningly beautiful. Craggy mountains rose to our right with a sheer drop to the turquoise sea on our left. The hairpin turns in combination with the scenery made it the perfect location for a car commercial (listen up you ad men). After an hour in the car we found the building with a sign for our dhow cruise company, Musandam Sea Adventure Travel and Tourism, in a strip mall. An Omani man appeared to be directing the parking of cars. I rolled down my window and he asked,
“Are you going out on a cruise?”
“Yes, with the sea adventure company. [pointing to the sign]”
“Oh no no no. They no good. You should come with me.”
“Well, we’re already booked with them. Sorry.”
“Already booked? Well I give you my card and next time you come with me.”
“Okay. [being friendly and accepting his business card]”
Card reads, “Abdulfattah Bin Ahmed Al Shehi, Chairman, Musandam Sea Adventure Travel and Tourism [the company we booked with]”
Me: “Oh you’re messing with me!”
“Hahaha. Follow me and I will take you to the harbor.”
I start up our car and follow him. Along the way, Josh and I comment to one another about the unorthodoxy (yes, that’s a word according to MW) of the situation. We were blindly following some guy we just met through some curvy roads and more herds of goats to a boat. After 6 months in UAE we’ve come to expect the unexpected! We park between two little fishing boats in the mud because it recently rained and appeared as though it would again in the near future. It turns out that the Omani man was the owner of the dhow cruise company. We waited for the other customers (we learned that many German people vacation in this part of the world) while we drank Arabic coffee and delicious tea – black tea flavored with cardamom, saffron, and rose water.
Enjoying tea while waiting to begin our dhow cruise
Our boat cruised along the Strait of Hormuz while we strained to see the Iranian land mass across the water (we never saw it) and then explored the Oman fjords.
Our boat left from Khasab and snaked its way among the fjords
These are some of the views from our ship. We also saw a number of dolphins as they came up for air and splashed about.
We dropped anchor to feast on a lunch of rice, curry vegetables, salad, chicken, naan, and hummus. And of course more tea! After lunch many of us napped as the sound of the water lulled us to sleep. By the time the cruise ended, I felt completely relaxed and tranquil – the desired aftereffects of the perfect mini vacation!