We had a car with a full tank (you would not believe how inexpensive petrol is in Oman) and a recommendation from Sue to visit the town of Nizwa, known as the Pearl of Islam. Arabic music blasting with the windows rolled down, we rolled past ochre hills of rock and sand, which seemed to burn a slight orange against the blue sky. Date palm plantations and little fortress-shaped shaped houses in pastel colours dotted the valleys, and every so often, a glimpse of a Wheatear or a Brown-necked Raven would incite us to pull out the binoculars.
Nizwa was once the old capital of Oman, and it surrounds a massive fortress which boasts the largest tower in the country, according to the brochure I was given at the entrance. Scholars, poets, and scientists were drawn to Nizwa from as early as the 9th Century— though two of the town's mosques date back to the 7th Century. The smooth sand-coloured walls and graceful scalloped edges of the tower were so beautifully simple, that I wished I had sketched them— but there were still caves to explore and owls to find.
On our way to the tower, we passed a little bookshop with bird calendars, and a proprietor who had a very elegant beard. His eyes were gentle, and once he learned we were keen on discovering the region's feathered beasts, he showed us a variety of guides and books on the subject. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a glittery Omani flag sticker, which I thought the cover of my sketchbook needed. This eventually led to a showing of my book, to which the man repeated a series of mashallahs in appreciation. He took his time leafing through both our sketchbooks, smiling and nodding, then offered us some more stickers, as well as the Omani Bird Calendars from the past three years. I was so touched by his generosity and warmth, that I thought this experience was worth mentioning— it's important to celebrate kindnesses, no matter how big or small.
While Nizwa's historical sites were wonderful to visit, what I'll remember with most fondness is the man in the bookstore. If you ever find yourself in Nizwa, instead of a ridiculously priced souvenir, buy a book on the region from the man within the walls of the citadel— and tell him that the artist from Istanbul says shukran.