Touring Oman: Fourth Stop – Lunch at Bahla

“Did you like the fort?” Zaher asked us.

“Yes thank you.”

“Are you hungry now?  Should we eat here or drive to Bahla and eat?”

“What is the difference between our options,” we asked.  Lunch was included in our tour package.

“Whatever you like – here or there,” he said in his completely uncommitted manner. We hemmed and hawed.  He finally offered a difference.

“Here we sit on the floor.  In Bahla we sit at a table.”

“Bahla it is,” we agreed.  We could miss the authentic experience in order to sit more comfortably.

We drove to Bahla the car ding, ding, dinging the entire way.  We continued to ask questions about Oman.

“Sultan Qaboos.  He came into power in 1970s?” I began.

“Yes he took it from his father.”

“Did he ever marry?”

“He was engaged once but he broke it off.  His private life is very secret.  No one knows what he has done.”

“Does he have any heirs?”  All royals need heirs.

“Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t.  Nobody knows.”

“Who will take over when he finishes his rule?”

“Nobody knows.  Maybe he has some children, maybe he doesn’t.  We don’t know.  We don’t know,” he said.  He was clearly uncomfortable talking about the Sultan so I quit quizzing him.

The drive to Bahla was quick, like less than fifteen minutes.

Across the street from the “Foodstuff and Luxuries Store” we pulled into a spot facing the oncoming traffic and parked.

The road side café was very simple.  There are some German tourists sitting with their Omani guide at an outside table.  Zaher asked us where we would like to sit.  We preferred outside.

At a table for about eight people a man sat by himself talking on the phone and having a coffee.  We stood looking at him like starving children.  He got up and offered us the entire table.  After chasing him away we positioned the plastic lawn chairs to watch cars whiz by on Bahla’s main drag.

We ordered fresh juice – mango with papaya and lemon with mint and opted for the Indian vegetarian plates while Zaher ordered fish with rice.

Zaher excused himself to wash his hands.  We used our Dettol wipes.

The food came quickly.  As Goldie and I polished our utensils, Zaher dug in with his hands mixing the fish and rice together.  The food was fine and the entire meal was cheap enough for Zaher to some make money.  The plates were about 1.8 riyals and the drinks were 1.2 riyals.

During lunch, we made conversation.

“Is it difficult to become a guide in Oman?” I asked Zaher.  “Do they make you go to school like in Italy?”

Zaher sighed.

“We have to take a test.  I’ve gone four times to take the test.  I have never passed.”  He looked at us sincerely.  “Every time I go they ask different questions.  How can I pass if they ask different questions?”

That explained why he was so pleased we brought our own guidebook.

As we finished we asked where was a restroom to wash our hands.  We were told it was in the back alley and needed a key.  Iron doors with a sliding lock requiring a key made certain only the worthy entered.  Inside there was no sink to wash my hands  nor a place to set anything.

Traditional hammams are fine as long as you are not lugging a big bag with you.  After years of sitting at a desk, achieving the perfect balance while squatting and holding my purse off the floor ensured the potty experience was the most challenging event of the day.

The sink was – of course – inside the restaurant’s dining room.  We navigated through the filled tables to the Washing Area, a four-foot long, communal sink on the side of the dining room where people could wash just before eating.

As we left, I took the photo of the man making naan bread and the government poster that I assumed said NO SMOKING.

Onto Bahla Fort – ding, ding, ding.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debbie Al Asfoor
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:39:44

    I just luvvvv Oman although I am sure it has changed since I was there last in the 80’s! Will make a concerted effort to return.


  2. Eva the Dragon
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 16:04:33

    The Royal Opera House is new since then and everybody is saying they LOVE it.

    Some things were new and some things were old.


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