There is only 21 miles to arrive at the Port of Mina Raysut on the town of Salalah. We are very excited to see land after 9 days at sea. The shadows of the high mountains are barely visible due to the haze. The trip has been fast, up to the first week, 25- 30 knots of wind at an angle of 60 degrees. However the motion on board has been uncomfortable, not much sleep, shower or fancy cooking, we were reduced to the basics of life on a boat, but Nomad Life coped well with the pounding. After that the wind died down and now the engine has been on for 2 days. Miraculously the alternator started to work again with no reason at all...
The anchorage is in the middle of a busy commercial harbour, with 25 cranes loading the cargo ships, boats coming in and out. There is a German frigate docked opposite us with 2 types of missile launchers, helicopter and the lot. So we feel safe. Can't say the same for the next trip. The piracy area starts here and goes until Aden. Although there is a corridor set up for all the traffic and patrolled by Navy from different countries, that havenít stopped pirate attacks. The reason is that the only action taken by the Navy is to scare the pirates when a boat is in distress. The pirates run off and once all is clear they come back and try again. We don't know why more drastic measures have not been taken... In the meantime as business is good, anybody with a power boat is becoming a pirate.
Salalah is spread out on the foot of the Dhofar Mountain range, very dry and dusty. Only five percent of the land is arable. All food is imported and very expensive. Fuel is very cheap costing fifteen pence a litre for petrol and twenty five pence a litre for diesel. The supermarkets are well stocked; we are gorging ourselves on humus, feta cheese, dates, pistachios... The Arabs are quite friendly. When, at times, we were waiting around for one boat part or another, the Arabs brought out the chairs, teas and snacks and kept us company. So the waiting around end up becoming having tea with friends. It doesn't look like the Arabs regard western woman the same way as they do their own woman, despite that I find awkward dealing with them. There are so many rules and you just don't know when, out of ignorance, you are offending someone. The Omani women are very rarely seen in the streets, when they do come out, it's fully covered with black burkas. For the very few tourists is enough to wear long sleeves and trousers.
Driving around is great, the roads are well maintained, empty and wide. The views from Dhofar are amazing. In the rainy season, which is from June to August the area around Salalah becomes green. After the wadi we visited Al Baleed. This archaeological site dates back to 11th century AD. It was a centre of commerce and port, with 50 mosques, a sultan's palace and cemetery. It is spread over one km along the beach. The Frankincense Land Museum is in the same grounds, here we learned a little about Oman. The prosperity of the country started with Sultan Qaboos, in 1970 . Now Oman is striving due to oil and natural resources.
The Oasis bar was packed with a familiar crowd: loud and boisterous, it must be Brits. It really felt like being back in a UK pub. HMS Northumberland arrived today to fix 2 out of the 4 generators, amounting a bill of a 2 million pounds. The generators are being flown from UK to Muscat then by road to Salalah. After that they are heading back home, resuming their work with Combined Task Forces. Graham got chatting with one of the guys, Tony, who invited us for a tour around and a few beers on board of the naval ship.
Tony is one of the 25 petty officers; he is the AWW, above water weapons. We had a tour around the deck, below; saw the helicopter, worth 32 million pound, then all ended up in the petty officers mess. Things got a bit blurry after that, we learned the hard way never to drink with the British Navy. The drinks kept coming fast, at one point there was 4 beers in line in front of us. They offered spirits and wine, which we refused wisely. We got completely hammered before they even got drunk!!! Now they want to come on board Nomad Life to see the contrast between a 140m ship and an 11m yacht!
Today has been a hard day with hangovers, did not manage to do a thing. At 5pm Tony came to our boat with another Petty Officer, Simon and the drinking resumed. Simon is married and was interesting hearing how marriage works being away for 6 months. Tony has been home for 4 weeks in 14 months. Well it was payback time for us. Now it was Tonyís turn to be hammered and when Graham ferried him back to his ship, Tony fell out of the dinghy 3 times.
Last day in Salalah came with Northerly winds, creating a huge sandstorm. The sun was obscured by the dust, we got covered in sand, and even breathing was difficult. Couldn't get a car hire, instead Mohamed drove us around. He looks like Omar Sharif, wears the head turban and the long white robe. After the food shopping he took us to a traditional Omani restaurant. The restaurant was divided in small rooms, instead of doors there were curtains. There was no furniture inside these rooms, only cushions. We took the shoes off and sat on the floor. The food, which was rice and fish, came in one huge plate shared by three of us. Mohamed showed us how to eat with our hands, mixing the curries with the rice, pressed together and forming a ball. He picked the fish, taking the bones and skin off then placed on our side of the plate. He even offered to feed us with his own hands. Someone else touching our food was very off-putting. Later we found out that this is an honour in the Arab culture. And the most bizarre thing was that he refused money for the trip and his time. "Next time", he said.