This is a tale of coming of age……….
Mine to be exact, in my thirties. Please don’t judge. I recently went on a trip sans Mr. Lenz, my first ever solo one. 5 whole days of vacation adulting on my own. I figured why not? With Mr. Lenz away for the week working and nothing tying me down to Dubai, I thought it was the perfect time to get away. Now in my culture (and probably a few others), a married lady doesn’t usually travel on her own without a specific purpose. I could just imagine the hushed voices dripping in judgement “Did you hear hablieyo hebel went on a holiday BY HERSELF?!? Hmmm”. Realistically none of this happened, especially since I don’t tend to announce my business to random people. A few eyebrows were slightly raised when I first broached the subject to those closest to me, but mostly I received lots of “You go girl!” type of encouragement. Maybe I’m helping to break down barriers, a type of Somali pioneer woman. I like the sound of that.
So where did I end up going you ask? Why, the beautiful Salalah of course. It checked all my boxes. Nearby? Check. Safe? Check. Water and nature? Check and check. Maybe I’m easy to please but that’s all I was really looking for. What I ended up getting was unexpected & a whole lot more.
For starters, I realized when I arrived that the resort I was staying at was quite remote and that if I wanted to see the sights I would need to rent a car. There’s nothing wrong with lying by the pool all day catching rays but that’s not my vacation MO. So I asked around and found a car rental agency at the hotel. When I felt I was quoted an exorbitant (not to be confused with extortionate, which also apparently means the same thing, fun) amount, I called several rental agencies for comparison. Turns out that I was so far from most civilization that with the car delivery charge, I would be worse off going with any of these other companies. Off I went back to Abu and after some serious negotiating, I ended up paying almost 20% less on a red 2017 Nissan Sentra with one day of free navigation thrown in. Pay dirt! I had just snagged a deal and was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Not bad for my first ever experience of renting a car by myself in a foreign land I thought. Fast forward 2 days later and I would be seriously reconsidering this.
My plan was to go up in the mountains one day, and to venture into the town of Salalah the next. Even though I was in town almost 2 weeks after the khareef season was over and I was being told by nearly everyone I met that I had missed the most beautiful time in the year, I didn’t know what the heck they were talking about. I was awe struck by the beauty of the mountains and loving the tranquility that undoubtedly comes when masses of tourists have left. Outwardly, I felt like a bad ass navigating the bends and twists of the mountain roads like a pro. On the inside, I was praying the whole time for me not to go over the edge. Its no wonder I had a crick in my neck a couple of days later. Tension can do that it seems.
The next day while shopping for frankincense (or lubaan as we Somalis and Arabs call it) at the haffa souq (which, by the way, came up as al husn shopping centre on the TomTom), I made a friend. With a total stranger. And so when she offered to show me around Salalah, I thought why not? As I followed her in her car to an unknown destination, it briefly occurred to me that this was maybe not the greatest of ideas, just maybe. As a true crime fan, I knew better. Hadn’t I seen and read enough tragic stories that began roughly the same way? I chose to ignore my chattering paranoid monkey, opting instead for a bit of adventure. I didn’t end up kidnapped (or worse) and had the best day with the sweetest Omani lady. We went shopping for traditional Dhofar region dresses, had the most delicious camel mashakeek (barbecue) and drove down to the port town of Raysut. I sheepishly apologized for the very low functioning a/c in the car and resolved to give Abu a peace of my mind when I got back to the hotel. A few hours later I thanked my new friend and we exchanged numbers with her telling me she would let me know next time she was in my neck of the woods/desert. I started the hour long drive back to the resort, stopping along the way to buy enough water so I would stay hydrated and not pass out due to heat exhaustion. Thankfully, the temperature wasn’t as high as in Dubai but I still felt like I was in a semi-sauna.
My first ever solo trip was a success. I returned home safe and in one piece having had experiences which truly enriched my life and that I will never forget.
I returned home feeling like I had nurtured a part of my soul. Thank you Salalah and all its welcoming people. I sincerely plan to return one day, insha Allah (God willing).
This experience has taught me that when you want to do something, most of the time you’re the only one that can get in your way. So make way and let yourself go. Take time for yourself. Is it selfish? Yes. Is that a good thing? Most definitely 🙂