Oman

MOTEL AS SUWAIQ

There’s much action going on in As Suwaiq. Siesta is over, shops have opened up again and everyone seems to have taken to the streets. We drive through the narrow alleys, past a shabby beach and a magnificent fort. It’s time we inquire about directions. “Sir, do you know where we can find Motel As Suwaiq?”. A surprised and mysterious smile and then an outstretched arm pointing inland. Back to the highway, past the police office and then just straight ahead. Always straight ahead, gestures the friendly man with a meaningful swoop of the arm.

 

 

Through a dry, sandy landscape we drive the straight deserted road. Better ask for directions one more time from that lonesome soulWahiba Sands walking alongside the road. Once again that same sniggering smile. Oh yes, we just have to continue on for a while, then we will surely spot the motel on our right-hand side. After a kilometre or two a white building rises up from the barren land. We drive through the fences and park our car in front of the entrance to the hotel. “Welcome. Did you already make a reservation by phone? Yes, that’s right, you can follow me”. The receptionist brings us to a fairly acceptable room with a double bed. He will bring along an extra mattress for the little one later on.

 

While we fill out Muttrahthe guest-form, he smiles and says it could well become very busy during the night and that it is possible that we will hear some music, but, if we are just going to be sound asleep, it will probably not bother us. This needs some explanation. He tells us that from nine in the evening till three in the morning singers and dancers will be performing in this motel annex nightclub. “Wonderful“, exclaims my boyfriend, “then I‘ll come and have a beer too!” I hesitate and ask, “will there be women too?” “Oh yes”, replies the receptionist gaily, “The dancers!” Alright, so no party for me this time...

Of course we immediately understand what’s going on here. The motel actually is a nightclub in disguise, like you find them elsewhere in Oman. Obtaining a permit to sell alcohol is easy when you hook up with a luxury resort that already possesses such a permit. As a hotel but not as a nightclub. Okay, there are a couple of rooms, but most are empty or taken up by businessmen.

 

To comfort us, or maybe just because he is happy to receive some tourists once in a while, the receptionist lends me a large picture book of this region of Oman. He is very proud of the region. Especially of the wadi he comes from, where his wife and children live. There are beautiful photos in the book, photos of famous sights that we intend to visit within the next couple of days.

We hope for the best and make a round of the hotel. The rooms surround a cosy courtyard with a small restaurant and little tables and chairs where we eat our dinner in the early evening. A haven of peace and quiet, in a way. The waiters are from India, they have come to Oman to work. We are being served with great care and attention. During the next hours, more and more men gather around us in their white, long dishdasha. They drink a beer - not a common sight in Oman - and make a whole lot of phone calls with their mobiles. There’s hardly any talk among each other. Al Ashkarah

 

From our room we overlook the dry and windy plain. In between the low, scattered bushes lie heaps of dirt. Especially the plastic bags seem to have become a legitimate part of this desert landscape. Out in the semi darkness I suddenly see a woman, dressed totally in black. The first woman I see out here. She is waving her arms about her. She must be one of the dancers.

From our bed we watch some TV, and yes, on the stroke of nine the music starts. The noise turns out to be not too bad and we settle down for a good nights sleep. My boyfriend refrains from visiting the nightclub. It would be much like peeking...

 

The next morning at eight there is a knock on the door. When we open our door we see the laid table on our little terrace. There is tea, toast, fried egg, jam, butter and orange juice. Delicious! Such incredible service! The next couple of days we make daytrips in the vicinity. We visit an old fort, a wadi, a hot spring, a gorgeous beach and we go snorkelling on a little rocky island. Meanwhile Motel As Suwaiq has become our homeJebel Shams away from home.

 

Upon returning on our second evening we notice from a distance the lights in the sky. That must be our hotel, we smile at each another. And we were right, our hotel looks like an overly lit up Christmas tree. Each wall, each corner, all the roofs are covered in little lights. It does look a bit tacky. They are not red lights, but still it is obvious that here, in the middle of nowhere, there’s a party going on. There is a long row of fourwheeldrives, and there is a great number of businessmen about the place. They look at us with surprise, but also with a sense of guilt in their eyes. Shy they try to avert their eyes. We sense them thinking, what are those tourists doing out here? Feeling at home, we head for our room.

It’s a rainy night. We are violently awoken by the thundering sounds of the thick drops coming down. When we look out of our window we see a dense curtain of water powerfully hitting the earth. In just a few minutes, the dry ground becomes a big lake. Our first encounter with one of those Camel Marinalegendary rain-storms that occur often during the wintertime in the desert.

 

Returning to the hotel on our last evening, the receptionist receives us with a big smile. “No noise for you tonight!”, he exclaims happily, “you will sleep wonderfully! Tonight is the Islamic New Year and we always close on holidays. A happy 1429 to you!” He lets us know that this is the year they live in right now. Tonight people will only celebrate at home. No no, he assures us, he never drinks alcohol anyway. The Indians start to laugh. “He is crazy”, they say, “he only cares for his wife and kids out in the wadi!”