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“Oman defies expectations; it shouldn’t, according to the cruel logic of the world, exist. But it does, and it’s incredible.”


Bourdain’s Field Notes

It was after tear-assing across the desert in 4x4s, driving pedal-to-metal down the hard-packed sand of the wadi, and after the camels took us across the dunes, after dinner and the music. Our Bedouin hosts took to their tea and their songs, laughing and telling stories in Arabic among themselves. We, the non-Muslim contingent, slipped discreetly away to a nearby dune, where a bottle of bourbon was produced, a speaker that played music off our iPhones. In time, our senses pleasurably deranged, we—all of us, the shooters, producers, camera assistants, and I—sat there in the soft, yielding sand, listening to The Prodigy and Marvin Gaye, looking wordlessly out at an endless sand sea, a nearly full moon hanging swollen over the dunes.

In the mountains near Jebel Akhdar, in a small village, I asked a woman about her children, her hopes and dreams for her daughters. She wept with pride.

In Muscat I looked out at the sea. Black crows, like augurs, landed on the balustrade, looked at me, then took off.

A Scotsman in a pub, a veteran of a war few remember, talked of fierce battles in the interior, a struggle whose global strategic importance dwarfed that of Vietnam or Laos. He fought side by side with the Omanis. We drank Guinness while he remembered the smells of blood and frankincense.

Oman, if you haven’t gathered already, is a remarkable place.

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Travel like Bourdain

“There’s an unusual mix here—a very graceful, a very proud mix of cultures and languages.”

Know Before You Go

The Dhofar Rebellion, also known as the Oman Civil War, began as an uprising of people from the Dhofar region in Oman’s south against then-Sultan Said bin Taimur. The conflict soon became a proxy war, with the Soviet Union and China supporting the rebels and Britain and its allies supporting the sultanate.

“You’d have heard about it if we lost it, I can tell you,” Ian Gardiner told Bourdain. Gardiner is a former British Army Special Air Service officer who served in the Dhofar War in the 1970s.

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