Home Gulf Tour 2009 The incredibly hospitable Omanis
The incredibly hospitable Omanis
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Sunday, 05 April 2009 15:50
Ali presenting a copy of the Visitor’s Complete Guide to Bahrain to the Wali of Ibra, and in turn receiving a commemorative plate

I’m sure you’ve all been there; the moment when you want to put your fist through your computer because your work has disappeared before you managed to save it or the internet fails for the nth time, an unhelpful message pops up on the screen and you just want to curl up in a corner and cry.  

Last night was one of those frustrating times when at the end of a long day we were filing our report home and disaster struck; our files would not go through.  Happily we were rescued by Mahfoodh al Jaffari in the town of Al Askharah on the east coast of Oman who kept his internet café open until well after midnight (even though he normally closed at 10.30) and plied us with mint tea in true Oman fashion while we struggled with an uncooperative computer system.  

For him there was no particular reward other than our heartfelt thanks. For us, it was another example of Omani hospitality and a new friendship unexpectedly forged.

As we come to the end of the Gulf phase of the Friendship Arabia Tour it was appropriate that some of the last memories we have of Oman were forged in the company of His Excellency Shaikh Ali bin Nasser Al Mahrooqi, Wali of the Ibra region of Oman.  The Governor had been told about our visit by Mohammad Al Muskari, our friend and guide.   Al Wali had expressed an interest in our trip and wanted to meet us to make sure we were enjoying our time in Oman and to learn more about the mission and rationale behind the Friendship Arabia Tour.  

Wali of Ibra with the team and guests

After a meeting at his office in Ibra, during which we had a fascinating conversation about the region and Oman in general, Al Wali invited the team to lunch together with representatives of the local government.  We were delighted to be presented with a commemorative plate marking the occasion of our visit. 

Mohammad at Al Munisifeh

Since we arrived early for our meeting with Al Wali, at the suggestion of Mohammad we visited the village of Al Munisifeh close to Ibra.  Here we spent a happy hour in the sunshine exploring the most amazing ruins.  Home to the Al Marmari and Al Baruwari families for over 300 years, Al Munisifeh has fallen into disrepair as people have moved to the city of Ibra.  Today only 6 families live in the village which is a fascinating combination of ruins and modern houses set against a mountainous backdrop.

Late afternoon we headed into the nearby mountains towards Wadi Bani Kahlid.  The views of the purple, green and brown rock formations either side of the road as we climbed through the mountains were stunning.  Sadly the heavens opened before we were able to reach our goal but we did manage to make a side trip to Wadi Absan and do a spot of “wadi bashing” along a road that had been washed away in parts by recent rains.

Wadi bashing at Wadi Absan

Before heading back to the Friendship Arabia Tour finishing point of Muscat, we were delighted to be guests at the home of guide Mohammad where he served us Arabic coffee and wonderful dates, home made sweets and biscuits; a fitting end to an amazing trip.  

As we pack our bags to make our way back to Bahrain, we are all absorbed in our private thoughts.  Certainly, there is a sense of sadness among the team that we have come to the end of the Friendship Arabia Tour.  Aside from being long, some 30,000km or more, the tour has served as an effective mechanism to help to promote Bahrain as a tourist destination.  

More importantly perhaps, we have forged many friendships along the way; friendships that will be the lasting legacy of the tour, helping to strengthen ties within and between countries and deepen understanding and tolerance for difference among peoples along the route.

The Friendship Tour vehicle at Al Munisifeh