After touring Muscat and exploring and camping in the Wadis of Oman for a few nights, we continued our week-long adventure with KE Adventures in the Sharqiya Sands, formerly named Wahiba Sands. After a welcome bed and shower at Oriental Nights Rest House, a perfect overnight for hiking Wadi Bani Khalid, our first stop was at a touristy Bedouin camp in this Arabian Desert. Book Here at Hotels.com
Camel Riding in Sharqiya Sands
Here we had coffee and dates, the traditional welcoming plate, before riding camels. This was the third time for me to ride a camel, and I’ve never gotten too excited about it because they are led by their handler at a walk. Having ridden hunter/jumper horses for years, comparatively, this is a rather dull experience.
Having said that, these were the sweetest camels I’ve ever met. Many in other countries are mishandled and as a result are mean, stubborn and distempered. These were not. They gently knelt for us to mount and then raised up to all fours, as we held on for the awkward transition. They calmly followed their handler for a short walk before we balanced for the dismount.
Afterwards, as they were kneeling, we scratched their neck behind their ears like we would do with horses, and they closed their eyes and rolled on their sides, completely relaxed. It was rather amazing. I never knew camels could be so friendly, docile, and obedient. Though touristy it was nice to see happy camels.
Four Wheel Driving in Sharqiya Sands
After camel riding, we went four-wheel driving in our Hertz Land Cruisers. It appears just about every tour company either owns or rents white Land Cruisers. Toyota has definitely corned the market. But I digress.
In a typical 27-year old male fashion, our guide Sami, with an enormous grin on his face revved the engine to make it up the dunes and pressed the breaks all the way down. We also did some side dune driving which sprayed sand all over. See the video.
Finished with our morning in the touristy area of Sharqiya Sands, we picked up a few supplies in the nearby town of Bidiyah and had lunch at Al Saula’ee Restaurant and Grill. Along with the typical meal of goat, chicken, hummus and salad, I hate to admit that we tried camel at Sami’s and Muhammed’s recommendation.
It turns out, Sami and Muhammed liked it much better than we did. It seemed fatty and greasy to us. But on a different note altogether, we were surprised that Omanis ate camel given the importance of camels in their society as well as the Arab culture in general.
Camels in Oman
With over 150 expression in the Arabic language referring to camels, it’s clear they are revered. They represent the social standings of their owners and are a status symbol.
The breeding of these once wild, yet now domesticated animals is taken very seriously. While in power, the Sultan Qaboos Bin established veterinary clinics as well as the Royal Camels Corps which keeps records of ancestry as well as race results.
Yes, there are camel races! Believe it or not, in the major races, the winning camel which is ridden by a robot to ensure equal weight, can be sold for $500,000. Who knew? We in fact went to see a camel track.
Goats in Oman
While we didn’t find any camels at the track as they only race on special occasions, we did find some roaming goats eating out of a tree. As we drove that way to snap a photo, the herd trotted off, but one baby goat decided to walk under the car.
As a result, we stopped, and Ruth picked up the kid to put it with the rest. Oops, this little one immediately identified with her as its mother. Each time she set it free, it came running back to her.
Eventually, the herd crossed the camel track to a nearby fence so we looped around to the other side to drop it with its fellow goats where it couldn’t reach us. The video is priceless.
Free from the goats, we continued our journey. Eventually we were to meet a Bedouin family that lives deeper in Sharqiya Sands. We didn’t go far before we found many free-range camels. Naturally, we had to stop again. Especially to see the unusual dark brown one?!?
I had no idea how much camels like bread! Sami, with a package of pita in hand, instantly became a camel herder as they followed him across the street for food! Where was the camel crossing road sign now?
Bedouins in Sharqiya Sands
Soon enough, we veered off the road to the sand, where Sami navigated his way to Salamah’s camp in the desert. Ironically, Sami and Salamah met through a lost baby goat. While hiking in the desert, Sami found a goat which he draped over the back of his neck when he ran into Salamah was looking for the lost goat.
So grateful to Sami for returning her baby goat, she invited Sami to a goat dinner. Since then, they have remained friends and as a result, we lucky tourists got to have a real Bedouin experience upon meeting Salamah and her family for dinner.
More Four Wheel Driving…
But first things first! It was still the afternoon, and we had many more things to do before dinner. First, we tourists got to try driving in Sharqiya Sands. Only Ruth and I volunteered to get behind the wheel. I’m not sure who was braver, us or our passengers, better called backseat drivers who were too busy doling out advice to take any pictures!
Regardless, now I know why Sami had such a big smile on his face. As a passenger, I couldn’t feel exactly how much the car slides in the sand, but as a driver, it was a different story. Brakes all the way downhill! Despite all the unwanted advice from my companions, I earned good marks from Sami, and it is not often that someone can say, “I drove in the Arabian Desert!”
Camping and Playing in Sharqiya Sands
With Sami back at the wheel, we zig-zagged through the dunes to find a campsite. After pitching our tents, we took a sunset desert hike. We climbed the closet dune and then followed the ridgeline as we took in the expansive desert.
Of course, our adventure wouldn’t be complete without a variety of pictures, both simple and creative. Like YMCA, we did our best to make a shadow that spelled OMAN. Then we tried to space ourselves evenly as we walked across the dune. I needed the token toes on a beach shot, only without an ocean.
Finally, we went for the jump which looks much higher when the photo is taken from below. After some group shots with many bloopers, we went for individual glory. We had so much fun, and frankly it was HILARIOUS!
Eventually the sun set and after capturing the orange sky over the ridges of dunes while the wind sprayed sand up around us, we returned to our camp, donned our headlamps, and hiked over the dunes down to Salamah’s camp.
Here we met Salamah, her son Said, and a few of her sisters who hosted us for dinner. We sat on a rug and pillows in a covered hut where they served us goat, hummus, chicken, rice and salad. What a nice treat to meet Bedouins at their animal camp rather than at a tourist trap!
Our evening ended under the stars as we returned to camp, and we bid Sharqiya Sands farewell the following morning after petting Salamah’s baby camels, as we continued on a three-hour drive to Nizwa to see its markets and fort. To be continued…ETB
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