OMAN, June 2017—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.