Oman - November 2013

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This time the arrival at Muscat International Airport -- on October 28th, 2013 at 11.00 o'clock at night -- was something special: 

The hot Arabian air at midnight penetrated to the bone, driving out the cold. It was literally a warm reception. The Omani host parents, as well as Abdul Rahman and Scharifa -- the Omani organizers -- made us feel very welcome.

The next day we commenced with our movie project, with the theme "Tradition and Modernity". The students were mixed and divided into five groups. The task was to cinematically depict themes of their own choosing, for example, The Way to School.

The group began to think about how this issue had been dealt with earlier and respectively in different countries. They decided to create short films on the subjects of cooking, communication, transport and gestures.

The development of a script proved to be troublesome, but with the help of Mr. Hülser and his great patience, the plans were finished after three days.  Mrs Weemaes, Mr. Hülser and I accompanied the group to their locations. The hard work was worth it, because the results had great significance and were celebrated with much enthusiasm.

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On Wednesday our Omani friends prepared a surprise for us: a "Dolphin Watch," which took all day because an entire island had been booked for the occasion. We spent a beautiful day in paradise, on a gorgeous beach. We splashed in the water, played soccer and volleyball, and culinarily were well looked after. There was a special delight for me that all the actors from the Shakespeare play were there, having managed to get off school.

The students were very impressed by the incredible hospitality of the host families. Most host parents took the students to their country homes over the weekend where they then met the entire Omani family, often 20 to 30 people.

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When we all met back at school on Saturday to go "to the desert," there was much to tell. During the bus ride, everyone swapped stories of their weekend.

On this first Saturday a trip was organized to the ancient market town Nizwa, a famous fortress city and former capital of the Sultanate. After visiting the castle we went to the 800 year old village Misfat al Abreen. Here we stayed overnight and had a hearty dinner on the roof terrace of the hostel. The balmy night and the incredible night sky with absolute quiet in the mountains impressed us all deeply.

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The next day we received a lecture and tour of the village. Everyone understood now how the Omanis have irrigated the oases for centuries with the "falaj system." In the midday heat, our bus set in motion towards the "Nomadic Desert Camp." The excitement was palpable for all because, funnily enough, most of the Omani boys had never been in the middle of the desert. The trip to this desert damp is the highlight of our cultural excursions every year.

When the real desert nomads collected us with their jeeps, the adventure began, with a 30-minutes transfer directly into the "Wahiba Sands." We stayed two nights in huts made of woven palm fronds, authentic Bedouin accommodations.

The next morning the day began with a short ride on a camel. Then five of us piled into a jeep and off we went 80 miles further in the hot sand. There followed a fascinating tour with incredible scenery and insights into Bedouin culture. Our lunch was cooked over an open fire by the nomads in the shade of a tree.

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Back at the camp the impossible happened: It started to rain. A brief shower. An old nomad said this was first rain to be seen in this area for two years. When water droplets leave a small ring on hot sand, this is an experience of nature one will not forget.

One disadvantage: whenever it is wet, the scorpions come out. And they came! No one dared to go to the bathroom that night! But all was well.

Relieved and filled with unusual experiences we left the camp after a hearty breakfast with the jeeps and then took the bus back to Muscat. The host parents received their tired but happy children, because the exchange students were also already considered part of the Omani family.

The next day, Wednesday, November 7, 2013 we visited the Great Mosque before we made ​​our way to the beach in the afternoon to celebrate a farewell with all the families and teachers. The parting was inevitable, as we were accompanied at 1:00 clock at night by our Omani friends, who said "auf Wiedersehen" with wistful faces.

Florian Schröder