Recently, our CIEE program in Sharjah took us on a weekend visit to the neighboring country of Oman. Having had no previous knowledge of Oman, I had few expectations of this trip and just looked forward to getting away from my studies for little while. When we arrived in Muscat, however, I was absolutely blown away. While living in the United Arab Emirates, I've become accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle of Dubai and the distinctly Islamic culture of Sharjah. The two make for a strange combination of modernity and tradition, and while I've loved every minute, it can be tiring to try and keep up. Oman was a welcome view into a slower experience. With low, white buildings and well-manicured streets, Muscat held the intrigue and beauty of Dubai without the sky scrapers and major highways. The ocean, with crystal blue water, pasted against the rocky mountains made for a serene setting that placed Muscat on my list of prettiest places. However, the real wonder of Oman struck me outside of the city. Our first morning in the country, we piled onto our bus and headed out to the Bimmah Sinkhole. As we drove along, I couldn't stop staring at the mountains that rose up all around us; after seeing only desert for two months, it felt magical to witness the majesty of mountains again. The Bimmah Sinkhole, a crater created by dissolving layers of limestone, sat in a valley outside of Muscat. This beautiful hole in the ground has turned itself into a natural swimming hole filled with turquoise water; it was one of the most amazing places I've ever gotten to swim.
After the sinkhole, we headed to Wadi Shab for a hike. I've missed greenery and nature in general, and Oman gave it to me in overload. We crossed a little river in a boat to reach the start of the hike. For around 45 minutes, we scaled the edges of this mountain that overlooked a beautiful blue stream. To me, it looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. The green contrasted with the rocky brown of the mountains and the blue of the water below made for a picture perfect landscape. At the end of the hike, we had the good fortune to go swimming yet again. It was one of my favorite experiences so far. The rest of the trip consisted of sight seeing and even some turtle watching on the beach, and I returned to Sharjah feeling calm and grateful. One of the most beneficial factors of studying in a place like Sharjah is its proximity to other countries; I never thought I'd go to Oman, but it ended up being one of my favorite places.