Torrents of Arabia

At first there was endless yellow which, from far above, seemed to ebb and flow in waves. Slowly the landscape turned grey; not dull grey, but grey-blue, grey-brown, and all manner of different tones. It was just possible to make out tiny caravans with elongated shadows, what seemed like small enclosures of tents, and tracks that navigated the desert like creases in old leather. Over jagged mountains of ash-coloured rock we made our final descent into Muscat.

The sky was dark and thick with haze. In the following days we experienced Oman’s first rainfall for two years; storms that quickly flooded the pristine streets, poured from the flat rooftops, and put a fresh chill in the air.

Muscat is divided by a craggy ridge, an outcrop from the mountains that give a dramatic backdrop to the city and spread in fingers across the plains to the Arabian Sea. It forms a physical barrier between old and new where, to the west, business and pleasure districts expand gleaming and unchecked, and, to the east, the old harbour and merchant’s houses nestle together in a maze of small alleys, streets and covered Arab souks.

Oman is barren through the surrounding mountains and along the coast out of Muscat. From the raised expressway that curls around the plateaux, towns pass by in haze: small blocks of low rise, flat roofed tenements separated by narrow alleyways and punctuated by minarets of green, gold and white.

We hike up a desert wadi. An azure stream shows us the way through a rocky ravine to submerged caves, as the rain clouds form overhead.

PK

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