عمان, مسقط

Also known as: The Story of How I Ended Up in the Desert

London Heathrow Airport, 9.00pm June 23rd 2015
"Thank you for checking in, Miss. I'm sorry but your flight has been delayed for an hour. Please have a seat and they will be announcing the Gate number on the information board in due time."

Oman International Airport, 7.00am, June 24th 2015
"Due to the delay, I'm afraid you are unable to board the flight to Kuala Lumpur."
"What? But my transit here is supposed to only be an hour?"
"Yes... we at Oman Air regret this incident. The next flight you can take is tomorrow morning. We will provide you with hotel accommodations, food, and you will be granted visa at the immigration."

I met this information with a mixture of confusion, resignation and disbelief. This scenario had never crossed my mind. I had booked Oman Air because it was the cheapest ticket back to KL. I looked around the transit hall, and saw two guys looking similarly lost.

"Are you guys Malaysian? Are you stuck here too?" I asked, by way of introduction.
"Yeah, we are," they replied, and we exchanged our backgrounds.

There was Adi, who was studying his A-levels in Brighton, and Kyren, who had just graduated from Sunderland. We were all roughly the same age, from areas near Kuala Lumpur, and were the only three passengers who were bound for Malaysia - the rest of them from Heathrow had gone on to Bangkok. It was a funny coincidence that I am Malay, Adi is half Chinese and Kyren is Indian. We joked about how it'd be a great cliched cultural poster.

The representatives at Oman Air did their job pretty efficiently, getting us a van quickly to the hotel. As we drove past the sandy landscape and palm trees, I was still in a daze. Oman?? Really?? By the time we got to the hotel, it was 9.00a.m., and the three of us decided to head to our respective rooms for a doze..

Of course me, being the excited one, grabbed a bunch of tour leaflets from the counter before I went in. I learned that Muscat is the capital city of Oman, a country located at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It's younger than Malaysia (established in 1970), and is ruled under the Sultanate of Oman. The currency is approximately RM10 to 1 rial (soo mahal).

Here's a video of excited me hehe. 

The first thing I did was assess my belongings, as we only had our carry-on bags. This is where I'm thankful because I had everything I needed with me (it's super important to get your hand luggage essentials down pat guys). I had a spare change of clothes, my laptop, my chargers and gadgets, my stationery, travel sized toiletries, even a spare pair of flip flops. I was definitely good for a day.

After a quick nap, the three of us met up at the lobby and requested for a taxi to take us around. We were dropped off at an atm to change some money (I think I changed RM200 to be safe, for food and payment of the cab), and then, began our way for the day! We asked Ali, our driver, to take us to a place where we could look at Muscat and get a feel of the desert, so he drove us to the outskirts of the city.

As the buildings petered out, we turned some corners and finally, Ali stopped the car. He said "there is no more road. We stop here." It turns out the tarmac just abruptly ended into the sand! We got out and saw a tall, rocky mountain, gleaming in the golden afternoon. After some surveying, we decided to climb to the lower peak. The air was sweltering, but I enjoyed every sweat that dripped down my face as we hiked up.

Once we were at the top, the three of us just stared. It was otherworldly to be surrounded by such a dusty, hard environment. Oman was very hot and dry - so different from Malaysia's tropical humidity, or England's windy cold. I felt extremely far away from anything familiar. Around me was brown sand, and the rough, jagged landscape. The three of us sat on the earth for a while, sweating in the blazing weather, and simply watched the vista. It struck me, as it always does, how vast the world is. 

As Kyren kept repeatedly saying "this is crazy man, I would never imagine doing this."

Architecture funfact: buildings in arid climates have their distinct features. Surfaces are often lightly painted to reflect the heat. They have small windows to reduce glare, but very big interior courtyards to encourage ventilation. Since there's not a lot of rain, the rooftops are flat and economical, also providing space to dry clothes or socialise :) 

That night, after finding out that markets were closed for iftar, we headed back to the hotel. There was a feast of food laid out. Succulent lamb and smoked beef, spicy sauces, hummus and sweet desserts, all spread on the buffet table. After dinner, we went out to a tent just behind the hotel, sat down on cushions, and had some tea and shisha.

I can't tell you how bizarre it was, to be stuck in a foreign country with two strangers. Three youths exchanging our dreams, plans and fears about the future, while also reflecting on our country. Adi was worried about his studies, Kyren was a budding musician, and I was planning my summer projects and interships.

I'm not sure what fate brought us to cross paths, but in our own personal way, I'm sure we all received hikmah in our fleeting meeting. I had been immensely stressed the past few months about so many things, and this trip gave me the perspective I needed to snap out. It's so easy to get lost in our lives, that sometimes we need to be in a completely different mindset to step back, and remember that our problems are not as big as they seem. This trip was a gentle reminder from the universe that the world is vast and full of miracles and worse problems.

It was also my first time properly shishaing (I'm a noob, I know hehe).

When we reached KLIA the next day, the three of us exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes. I've not met either of them since, but I'll never forget that one day in my life spent in a place I had never been to, with people I've only just met.

Don't worry, I wasn't leaning on Kyren's shoulder. We just had to squeeze into the small polaroid frame haha

Snaps taken out and about Oman.

Our driver Ali. 

And a quick vlog of the day! :)


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