Our trip is in ruins...

Ibri Travel Blog

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Ibri Fort - still don't know why we couldn't see this huge structure until we were right on it!

It was our last day and we arose with serious feelings of regret.  We had packed a lot into our six day introduction to Oman, but everyone always made us feel so welcome that it would be difficult to leave.  There were two more sites we wanted to explore before breaking for the border and we started by bouncing around Ibri to locate the Ibri Fort.  We had no directions or address for the fort, just a vague idea where it was in the city – the forts typically towered over everything so we figured cruising the right neighborhood would permit us to catch a glimpse of the prize.


Fortunately John was behind the wheel.

Ibri Fort
  He has an uncanny knack for ferreting this stuff out, and after I was ready to punt he exclaimed “ah-ha” and there was the fort!  The fort looked inviting, but since today was Mohammed’s Birthday we had back-to-back days of closed forts.  It was as massive as we imagined and I’m still not sure why we couldn’t espy it before John practically drove through it.  Once again there was an abandoned village abutting the fort, reinforcing the notion that folks just up and leave as buildings grow derelict.


The final Omani destination was an “official” abandoned village.  Al Sulaif is a walled village on the fringes of Ibri that was only abandoned twenty five years ago.  Our guide book stated you might still find some old timers hanging out at the old souk in Al Sulaif (probably wondering why business was so bad, lol).


We did encounter somebody, but it was Afeef (or something close to that), an Omani who was a government employee and I guess provided free tours of the site.  He showed us a card indicating his government status and didn’t ask for money, but immediately launched into a tour of Al Sulaif.

Archway in Al Sulaif
  Afeef pointed out many Arabic inscriptions and had cleverly set up his cell phone so he could recall text messages displaying the English translations.  Though his English was not very good, he was very energetic and accentuated his explanations with many gestures and frequent role playing.


When it got to be 11AM we informed Afeef that we had to go.  He appeared sad and replied “five minutes”.  Okay, we followed along and fifteen minutes later reiterated our need to depart.  “Two minutes” he replied.  At this point we started thinking that it must be pretty boring standing out in the sun all day waiting for a random visitor to entertain (Ibri isn’t a hot spot – I had to add the location to TravBuddy).  When Afeef was reduced to exclaiming “one minute” we declined and departed.


Our tour with Afeef was a poignant conclusion.  The people we had interacted with in Oman consistently went out of their way to assist you and I’ve never felt so genuinely welcome.

Al Sulaif was a treasure to ramble through...
  We bade Afeef farewell and gave him a small tip, the trip was done.


Only the drive back to the UAE remained, and shortly we returned to the desert environment, leaving the Hajar mountains behind.  Our entry back into the UAE would be via Al Ain this time and things had changed from six years ago.  After displaying passports at a border post we were instructed to park and enter a nearby building.  Here John and I received eye scans, although Mark got exempted.  The eye scan is part of a program to identify aliens who have been expelled from the UAE and attempt to get back in.  It was an interesting and painless procedure.


I’ll recap the last few bits of the trip in the Dubai blog, since our few remaining hours were spent in the UAE, but this is a good stopping point to summarize thoughts around Oman.  What a fascinating destination.  We focused on a rather narrow swath of the nation that left out Salalah, the Batinah Coast, the Wahiba Sands and so much more.

Pottery at Al Sulaif
  I’m glad we focused on just a piece because I felt we really got to experience Muscat and the mountains with what little time we had.


My key impressions around Oman are that it is wonderfully receptive of visitors.  Other Arabic countries are difficult for female travelers, but I feel this is a haven in a notorious region.  That said, despite coming away with the impression that woman could travel here with far less hassle, what I read about the progressive treatment of Omani woman was not evident.  I don’t recall seeing many women walking around unaccompanied by males (ostensibly their husband) and most were veiled.  Even though restaurants didn’t have the segregated sections (a men’s section and a ‘family’ section where it is women only or men with their female family members) typical of other Arabic countries, there were never unaccompanied females at restaurants or anywhere.  Still a long way to go, but perhaps a step ahead of the rest.


The most incredible facet of Oman was the wealth of interesting destinations.

Afeef extolling the virtues of Al Sulaif
  We never grew weary of checking out another fort and there are hundreds beyond the handful we visited.  Natural beauty also abounds.  We scratched the surface over our two days with Naseeb, but there are beautiful wadis and amazing hikes around every corner.  I am hopeful this litany of our travels entices you for Oman is a fascinating experience.

boxinbcn says:
Thanks for a fantastic blog. I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about my move there.
Posted on: May 26, 2011
seraphimkarlien says:
I really enjoyed reading your blog, Vance, and it certainly is good promo for Oman. Thanks for sharing!
Posted on: May 13, 2010
reikunboy says:
nice conclusion
Posted on: Mar 16, 2010
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Ibri Fort - still dont know why w…
Ibri Fort - still don't know why …
Towering Ibri Fort
Towering Ibri Fort
Ibri Fort
Ibri Fort
Archway in Al Sulaif
Archway in Al Sulaif
Al Sulaif was a treasure to ramble…
Al Sulaif was a treasure to rambl…
Pottery at Al Sulaif
Pottery at Al Sulaif
Afeef extolling the virtues of Al …
Afeef extolling the virtues of Al…
Ibri Fort with Omani flag flying.
Ibri Fort with Omani flag flying.
Doorway at Ibri Fort
Doorway at Ibri Fort
Al Sulaif
Al Sulaif
Arabic inscription at Al Sulaif (w…
Arabic inscription at Al Sulaif (…
John displays wares of Al Sulaif (…
John displays wares of Al Sulaif …
Afeef, Mark and John at Al Sulaif
Afeef, Mark and John at Al Sulaif
Mark takes pictures as Afeef asks …
Mark takes pictures as Afeef asks…
Ibri Sights & Attractions review
Al Sulaif - getting close to adobe brick ruins
Ibri is a rather remote village in Oman and offers few attractions, though we were charmed by Al Sulaif. This substantial walled village lies just so… read entire review
photo by: vances