Monday, February 3, 2014

The Oman Fjords -- a Geologist's Playground

Me. It got hotter. That hoodie came off. Rrrrrr.
And smugglers. Don't forget the smugglers. I'll come back to them. First things first. The first thing you notice when your cruise ship sidles up to the port in Khasab, Oman is that this place is--surprise, surprise--a big pile of rocks. There is no shortage of rockage here.

"The Fjords of Arabia," says Oxsnard the Buffalo Horn Collector.

"The Fjords of Arabia," I snort.

I haven't been to the Fjords in Norway, but I have been to the Fjords in New Zealand. Milford Sound is a dark and magical place with seals and dolphins and trees and waterfalls and . . . mist. The Oman Fjords are blue waters in the baking sun surrounded by big piles of very hot rocks. This place is so hot that teachers won't even come here to teach. That's hot. The children have to sail to Khasab to go to school because Oman can't get any teacher to stay in this remote area long enough to get through the multiplication tables.

The Village in the Oman Fjords where seven families live. Can you see it?
There are only a few families living out here anyway. Oman pays for there electricity and water, which is nice--but why? OK, the hermit in me understands the need to live in a remote place. Sometimes I don't answer my phone. Hell, I didn't even have a cellphone for the last year. Just got that little problem solved last week. Now I have another phone that I don't answer. To be fair, these Omanis have phones and internet, so I'm sure they're keeping up with the Kardashians too.The Oman Fjords, while definitely a big pile of rocks, ain't the moon.

Oxsnard the Buffalo Horn Collector booked us a tour of the fjords. I'm sure he was possessed by nostalgic, idyllic memories of Milford Sound when he booked this extremely boring tour. We sat on top of the boat and baked in the sun for hours with nothing but big piles of rocks for a view. I fell asleep.

Now, I'm not a geologist, but if I were (and let me emphasize that I am not), I would find the Oman Fjords fascinating. I just know I would. See, this is where the Arabian tectonic plate is, um, subducting beneath the Eurasian plate at a rate of 6mm a year. The results are truly (no joke) dramatic, and I'm sure my camera cannot do them justice, but here:

I'm not going to lie to you. The most enjoyable part of this tour is when the boats (dhows) race the dolphins. I'm sure the dhow drivers started doing this out of extreme boredom and possibly for the breeze effect. They perform a sort of boat ballet and then sprint with the dolphins a few times. The tourists erupt in applause and laughter. I wake up. Everyone's happy. We all eat dates and drink Mountain Dew.

Telegraph Island (the rocks on the left)
The destination of this fjords tour is Telegraph Island, a repeater station occupied by the British in the 19th century until the heat drove them crazy or 'around the bend' as the legend has it in the mid-1870s. Now, all that remains are the remains of the fort, some fairly treacherous steps up to those ruins and dhow-loads of sweaty tourists. 

On the way back to Khasab, our guide tells us about the lively smuggling trade. I hope I'm not getting him in trouble. It seems to be a wide open secret. The embargo on Iranian export/import has helped to sustain a thriving mafia, smuggling electronics from Khasab into Iran. A never-ending queue of speedboats transport these goods, reportedly worth over 10 million dollars a day. He also told us something about goats being traded for electronics, but I didn't see any goats. I like goats, so I looked for them.

"Are the goats living or dead?" I ask Oxsnard the Buffalo Horn Collector.

"Alive, I would assume," he replies.

"Don't see any live goats. Do you think 'goats' might be a clever euphemism for, say, cocaine?"

Oxsny thinks about this for way too long. "Probably not. Goats are popular here."

On land, we head off to the town of Khasab to check our emails, which begins and ends my list of things to do in Khasab.

Next time we're off to Abu Dhabi, reportedly the richest city in the world.

I must be off,

To continue with the I Must Be Off! A-Z contest, comment on this post and go to Porto. Then continue to the Q post and so on. Comment on all the posts A-Z and win a book. It's that easy. 


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Crack the Spine, Feathertale, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.