THE ROAD NORTH GREW WILDER
after it passed Ras al-khaimah. I’d been travelling for a month and, with the exception of Sir Bani Yas, had yet to see so much as a hill since leaving the Turkish border behind in Syria. Everything had been flat, whether it was the plains of Nineveh, or the marshes and deserts of the Gulf. But that soon changed when I arrived at the Al Jeer border crossing into Oman. It heralded the gateway to the Musandam Peninsula, a finger-like piece of land that juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, a stone’s throw away from Iran. I needed to get to the town of Khasab on the coast, and from there my plan was to take the twice-weekly boat around the peninsula towards Muscat. The mountains ahead marked a new phase of my journey. I was excited to be leaving behind the ‘civilisation’ of the Gulf and get into the wilderness. I wanted to experience the Arabia of old, and to get a flavour of the reality of rural life in the Middle East. For the most part, I’d had little contact with Arabs in the Gulf, and apart from a few officials, I’d met only foreign expats. I hoped that Oman would finally give me the opportunity to meet the locals.