What is a Wadi?
A Wadi is a dry river bed or valley which fills up in the rainy season and sometimes can flood. Water is a precious commodity in these parts. Wadis are usually found in remote locations which are most in need of this resource. Some, like the beautiful Wadi Ban Khalid are fed from Falajs or man made channels, which bring fresh spring water down from the mountains.
Oman is a desert country. It’s very sunny all the time and in the summer it can reach 50 degrees. Word is that no one is supposed to work if it gets to 50 degrees. However the government will only ever admit to it being 49 meaning that no one can use this excuse! You can fry an egg on the pavement in 49 degrees. Despite the sometimes unbearable heat Oman does have the dreamy turquoise Arabian sea to cool things down. Plus there are the Wadis, these beautiful green oases and waterfalls which dot the landscape. They are a lifeline for the hot and bothered of the Middle East.
Driving in the desert
In travelling to the Wadi you drive along a very winding road up and down through the mountains. You will probably take many wrong turns, as signage is infrequent and often ambiguous. Navigational issues meant that we often had to ask for directions.
Omanis are so friendly and helpful, that not only will they point you in the right direction, but they will urge you to follow them and drive you right to where you want to be. This happened four times to us, and each time we experienced the same hospitable reaction. Who needs a sat nav in Oman? Petrol is 20p a litre. Get lost as much as you like!
Wadi water fun
Eventually we reached Wadi Ban Khalid. There were lots of visitors taking picnics and swimming up the Wadi and through the caves. Small boys offered to carry your bags in their wheelbarrows for a small charge – very enterprising we thought.
Young men were jumping in from the bridge and horsing around in the cool water. Ladies and girls don’t get to share in this fun. Women can go in the water only if they are fully covered. We wanted to cool off in the Wadi so we had no choice but to go in fully clothed. I haven’t swum in my outerwear since my junior life saving certificate age 11.
Back to Sur
After our excursion to the Wadi we headed back to Sur, the town on the South East coast where we were staying. Sur has a magical island with a lighthouse on it. It is also home to the ancient art of Dhow (wooden boat)building. There are few tourists here and not a lot of facilities.
Eating some delicious grilled fish in a local restaurant, the sauce for the fish arrived in a bowl. We mistook it for a spicy tomato soup and began to drink it with a spoon. Noticing someone on the next table anointing their dinner with it we realised it was actually a sauce, and surreptiously poured the rest over our dinner.
We stayed in one of Sur’s only three hotels, the Sur Plaza. The hotel was clean and pleasant and cheap. We dined on a delicious pea and cashew nut curry from the hotel menu. It cost about £1.50. There was some very interesting entertainment offered in the Captain’s bar. We were the only women in the bar.
A Phillipino band called ‘Vital Strands’ belted out everything from Abba to Carly Rae Jepson. The two girl vocalists were wearing the shortest mini skirts I have ever seen. They were swinging their legs around with little hops and jumps displaying extraordinary stamina. ‘Legs Akimbo,’ may have been a more appropriate moniker.