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Phespirit goes to Oman
Hajar Mountains     July 1999

Travelling from the city of Dubai to Hatta - a south-eastern enclave of the Dubai emirate, 105km inland - the main dual carriageway cuts directly across the open desert territory of Oman ..... but with a four-wheel drive Toyota Landcruiser, the more interesting passage is via gravel tracks and wadis in the Hajar Mountains of Oman.

The sand and rocky deserts of the United Arab Emirates terminate at the Omani border, where stands a ramshackle security hut. Here a token border guard rises from his chair to give passing vehicles a cursory once-over, a task he must undertake solely to prevent himself from expiring with boredom.

Within the main Omani territory's far northern region - the Western Hajar - there are no surfaced roads, just compacted gravel tracks and dry-riverbed wadis, wildly undulating and criss-crossing. Hence the need for four-wheel drive. When the rains come, flooding the wadis, these passages may quickly be destroyed, but while the season is hot and dry and there's scarcely another vehicle to be seen the conditions are ideal for a spot of off-road escapism.

Smallholdings of date palms and goats are scattered wherever oases are found. All are serviced by overland electricity lines, so it's not exactly an environment in complete isolation from modern life. However, for Phespirit, the very best of oases are the deep, dark, rocky mountain pools. In the noontime heat there's no better way to chill than to strip off for a lazy swim in a shady pool.

Unfortunately, as more Westerners uncover the delights of these places, so the scum leave behind their embarrassing litter and graffiti. It's a dismal reminder to Phespirit that he's just another tourist from the same disposable society.

Continuing on towards Hatta, over and down ever more twisting tracks - beyond the town of Ray - the surfaced roads are eventually re-discovered at the border town of Al Fay. Leaving Oman, it's just a short drive to a nice restaurant at the Hatta Fort Hotel. Phespirit can strongly recommend the hammour and chips for a very reasonable 36Dh.

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