Where Wagtails Spend Winter

(An Introduction to Oman)

Where, indeed, is the nearest place, where it is warm, when here, in Moscow, it is cold? In other words, where, in the thick of winter, can one go to find an unmistakable, fool-proof summer at its height? In purely geographical terms, at issue here could be such countries as Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia. But the place in question is supposed to be easily accessible and safe enough. And, if you want to stand the minimum chance of dealing with militants, guerillas, pirates, and other attributes of extreme tourism, an answer here will be unequivocal and clear-cut. There is such a place. And it is called Oman.

As little as five hours of flight, and you will find yourself in the capital of Oman, the city of Muscat. The country’s formal name is the Sultanate of Oman. But there is nothing to be scared of here. A “sultan” means in our language a “king”, or a “tsar”. So, the country can otherwise be called the “Kingdom of Oman”. At that, the Omani tsar is known to be a kind and wise ruler, who takes a good care of its subjects’ well-being, as well as that of other nationals legally residing in the country. In Oman, shelter and employment is provided to expatriate Indians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Indonesians, and many others. Although Islam has the status of an official religion here, this Islam is gentle, tolerant, and enlightened.

Certainly, you can stay in the city itself. It is well-groomed and cosy. But should you be more attracted by wildlife and nature, you can drive out of the city in any direction, and within a range of several dozen kilometres you may find what you are looking for.

True, Oman is wanting in vegetation. Generally speaking, it is a desert, or a mountainous desert, or, to put it more precisely (with regard to the ocean being around) it is a mountainous desert bounded by a magnificent beach. Wherever there happens to be a little pool or creek, or a river, vegetation starts to sprout immediately. Such oases are usually proclaimed natural reserves. Man painstakingly helps make the desert greener, laying out parks in urban areas and creating plantations in the countryside.

Such oases, both natural and man-made, immediately become a dwelling place for a multitude of birds. Yes, Oman is a country of a thousand bird species. Various ducks, cranes, and herons, occupy the water surface and the banks, while the tree crowns are selected by singing birds of various size and colour. Among them, one can notice modest, grey birds so characteristically wagging their tails. Yes, there can be no mistake, they are our native wagtails. They really know where to spend winter.

Among the animals of Oman, camels visibly prevail. They are everywhere, both domestic and stray. They are kind of Oman’s sacred cows. Arrogant and aloof, they let you know without doubt that this land is theirs. Only their young are funny and likable. One would love to stroke them, but they keep close to their watchful parents.

Beaches are boundless there. And the ocean is warm and caressing. But those caresses are rather of “manly” nature, and you will never be able to afford unalerted relaxation. Abounding in fish and other living creatures, the ocean is ready to share its riches with those who honour its laws and give heed to its temper.

Oman is big. Its south even claims to be considered the tropics of sorts. But this mainly applies to the summer season, when the monsoon brings plenty of water. Then everything turns green. Nevertheless, the winter here is dry and sunny, like elsewhere in Oman.

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