Our next stop along the road to Sur was the beautiful Wadi Shab, which translates as "gorge between the cliffs". Cliffs indeed, arching skyward on either side of the green waters bordered by large palms. There were a few other cars there, one was a tourist group with a guide, another was obviously an Omani Jeep, with the now-familiar flag depicted across it's hood. The owner was a smiling young man, dressed in a soccer shirt with a white wrap around his waist. We struck up conversation with him; his English is very good, though he kept apologizing for it.
We learned that his name is Juma, and that he is an incredibly open, sweet and generous individual. He offered to let us stay in his Aunt's house in Sur (she is out of town), and to take us out the the beach for a bonfire. ("I collect wood for you!") He also made it clear that these were offers from the heart, and that he wasn't looking for money.
It was Colleen's birthday, and I asked Juma for what I told him would be a big favor: to recommend where he would take someone for a special dinner in Sur. He gave us the name of a restaurant that he said was good and has a variety of food, and then he and his friend encouraged us to go check out the path along the Wadi.
Hiking the sand beneath the cliffs and among the palms along the river felt very Indiana Jones to me...I swear I could hear the theme...most likely the side effect of wandering in damp jeans after climbing ropes and flinging myself into the sinkhole and perhaps swimming with an unseen demon...
The kids waded in the waters of the Wadi with the fish, played and shrieked, a wonderful break for them from sitting in their car seats.
Wandering back to the parking area, we saw Juma again, though he was on his mobile and we left him alone. Bethy finally deigned to play with a young local boy who had to work hard to get her attention for some reason. Poor little mite was so sad until she finally relented; then they had a good time.
Juma came over to us again. "My friends, you must stay here for just 5 more minutes, you must stay." So we did. I promised to email him the photos we'd taken, which he said he would drive into Sur to retrieve. Soon the Jeep came roaring back into the canyon and his friend climbed out with carry-out cups of freshly blended juices for all of us and two Oman flags for the kids. A gift. It was such a thoughtful (and delicious!) gesture, and in the middle of the desert, too. We couldn't fathom where they'd managed to find drinks for us.
We enjoyed our juices, (banana and mango, perhaps?) exchanged emails and mobile numbers, posed for photographs, and then, seeing clouds rolling in, said our good-byes. Flash floods in the wadis are one of the two main dangers to travelers. (The other is the long distances between peopled areas, ie help and fuel.)
Staying off the new freeway for a while (which pleased Matilda no end, since she wasn't aware of its existence and kept intoning "recalculating" and "drive to mapped road" when we were on it) we drove on a rock and sand passageway through Juma's village, the tiny fishing hamlet of Tiwi. Little sandy stone homes, people out on the doorsteps socializing, not so much as a coffee shop to be seen, the occasional chicken or goat. It was very poor, and very wonderful. I only took the very rare, discrete photograph.
Outside of town we stopped by the sea to admire the sandy soccer field by an old well, where Juma had told us he usually plays. His leg had been terribly burned by a drunken Irish friend of his at a campfire gathering, and he probably wouldn't be playing that evening as it was still healing. He forgave his friend, he told us, no problem, it was an accident. It was one heck of a burn---he must be awfully forgiving. Then we got back on the road to Sur, much to Matilda's dismay.
Last night Juma's beloved Oman played Saudi in the final game of the Gulf Cup. We exchanged a couple of "good luck" sort of texts. This morning I was greeted by a text message on my phone from Juma: Congratulations dear. Oman win. thanks. Juma.
Congratulations Oman from us on winning your first Gulf Cup! Final score, 6-5. It must be one amazing party there right now!!!