Wadi Shab and Al Sharqiya, Oman

After three nights at the Grand Hyatt Muscat, we traded our suite for an SUV and drove from Muscat into the nether, sans GPS. The road was straight and went on forever, dotted with feral donkeys and curiously constrained camels. We stopped briefly at a petrol station restroom where I observed a queue of four - both men and women - peer inside and opt out. I was the only one to venture inside, and all I can say is that hole in the ground is hardly a fitting description. Suffice to say, roadside bush stops became the new mainstay.

We spent the afternoon cliff jumping and trail hiking Wadi Shab, a beach-side oasis south of Muscat accessible only by boat. We pulled off at Fins to set up camp. We found a secluded white-sand beach, set up camp and built a beachside fire. Privy to starry skies and painting with light; punctuated by spiked cran and cigar smoke; an epic moonrise and Arabian wolf howl sometime after midnight.

There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of a shore break, or the soft song of sea breeze and raw desert air. The beach was deserted and we spent the morning chasing Dori and searching for seashells. En route to Al Sharqiya, we passed a woman standing alone beside a weathered sign in an ocean of sand. The wind whipped her abaya in every direction so that she appeared as a dark ghost, standing silent on the road. Her entire face was covered, so that not even her eyes could be seen. The institution of dress in the Middle East is a tradition I will likely never understand. Culture shock of the greatest kind, so much so that I failed to raise my lens in time. Even without an image, I don't expect to forget anytime soon.