October 4, 2011

Omani Beaches: A Place Where There Was Nowhere Left to Go

"Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go."

Namesake (2003), Jhumpa Lahiri

Continuing to meditate along the lines of my last post, I recently visited Sifah beach about 25 km from Muscat. I had heard much about its white sand beach and that alone was enough to intrigue and compel me into visiting it. The ironical thing is that I have never ever been to a white sand beach or at least, not in my memory. I was born in Australia and my parents have plenty of photographs of a toddler me delightedly building sandcastles upon Brisbane's famous Gold Coast white sand beaches; yet, I sadly have no memories whatsoever of my Australia sojourn. For some reason, though, the notion of a sea of white fringing  all that blue strikes me as being incredibly beautiful and elevates it above a well, say, an ordinary dun-hued sand beach.

As it happened, we arrived just before sunset at Sifah, where the dying light had robbed the lustre from the seemingly white sand - and the rocky beach at low-tide was filled with an armada of marine creatures which would clearly have preferred to been beneath the veil of the sea: spiky black sea-urchins, star-fish, tiny fish, and a bronzed crab, both of us scuttling away from each other in mutual fright. I perhaps arrived at the wrong time of the day to properly appreciate the beach but the drive was fairly spectacular, cutting through  dusk-light drenched mountains and driving along roads overlooking mangrove-edged lagoons and dust-cloud filled gravel valleys transformed into makeshift football fields. Every now and then, we passed through villages, where dusk meant the inhabitants clustered around their homes and gossiped and we had to wait for herds of plump, long-haired goats to cross the road before finally moving ahead. Indeed at times,  inside the heart of the mountains and finally at the shore itself, it was difficult to believe that Muscat with its urban bustle and lights was mere kilometres away. 

Given that Oman has a 1500 km coastline, there are no dearth of beaches in Muscat and its immediate vicinity - and it is unimaginable for me to be away from the beach for too long. When I was a child, we would often drive up to Sawadi, which is located 85 km from Muscat, whose beach was lavishly littered with shells and I remember one of the best parts of the day after the frolicking and eating and playing was walking along the beach just before sunset, picking up shells. When we returned home, I was never inclined towards  looking up the shells and accordingly categorise them: I was quite happy that they simply functioned as souvenirs from a wonderful day at the beach.

Sometimes, there were other treasures to be gleaned from the beach, other than shells:

A feather, visual whispers...

Each beach has its own personality, which renders it distinct from the others. For me, my favorite beaches are those which are akin to an abandoned garden, empty, desolate, and peacefully existing as they must have done for many centuries: the ritual of low and high-tide, the subterranean world beneath the shore and the corresponding submarine one beneath the water, the almost invisible yet there marks of water enameling  the shore and the galaxy of sun-polished and water-shaped shells and rocks crowding the sand, like nature's bargain baskets. Yet, these days, the increasing presence of rubbish or the distant appearance of emerging hotel developments or the ominous rumble of beach bikes in the beaches  rudely encroaches upon and destroys the feeling of inviolability and serenity and temporary disconnect from the world. I find myself having to travel further and further away from Muscat to find that elusive beach, still unexplored and quietly slumbering away...where as you step on the shore, that dramatic convergence of land, water, and sky, you think you have nowhere else to go - and all that stretches ahead of you  - to contemplate, admire, and meditate upon - is the unending expanse of water. 

The light was too poor at Sifah to take pictures and do justice to the beach so I would like to share pictures from a new beach that I discovered a while back. 

Sunlight strewn beach...

Sky meeting sea and rocks

Mercurial waters...


  1. I know, this is a particularly incredible beach - in fact, as it has been quite a while since I have been back and being reminded of its beauty after sorting through these images, I will be going there once again over the weekend. I sincerely hope that it is more or less as I last saw it although mounting rubbish on beaches here is becoming a rampant problem :(


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