Overcoming grief and parenting on a road trip through Oman

There are only three weeks left until our 23-day travel itinerary. infant, Julian, when my father suddenly passed away. This trip was something I had been planning for months, trying to prove to all the in-your-face naysayers (and me) that having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up on traveling. I was determined. All you need to do is find new ways to move through the world. I was so sad that I considered canceling, but in the end I decided against it. My father was a classic agoraphobic, shutting himself off from the world and eventually only leaving the house once or twice a year. But traveling was a way for me to learn who I am and who I want to be. I’ve visited over 80 countries with her and traveled full time for 4 years with a 35 liter gas station. rucksack And a small hatchback. If I could give my child any traits, I wanted them to be my strongest. It’s insatiable curiosity, relentless optimism, fiery resilience, and a willingness to follow my circumstances rather than expecting them to follow me.

Muscat's Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the country's largest house of worship

Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the country’s largest house of worship

Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

Author's son Julian on the beach at Jumeirah Muscat BayAuthor's son Julian on the beach at Jumeirah Muscat Bay

Author’s son Julian on the beach at Jumeirah Muscat Bay

ashley halpern

Our journey started with swish dubai We went to a safari camp in Tanzania, but it was the week we spent there that most unraveled both my grief and my ambitions as a mother. oman Travel through beaches, deserts, cities, and mountains along eerily empty highways. On a sweltering afternoon in the tranquil seaside capital of Muscat, punctuated by towering minarets, I followed Julian across the glossy marble and stone promenade of Sultan Qaboos’ grand mosque. There, flattered believers greeted him with sweet dates. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to enter, but a female security guard noticed me steaming hot in my hijab, with a sticky toddler stuck to my waist, and discreetly led me out a side door to cool off under the loud air conditioner. He showed us around.

At dusk, we strolled along the bustling Matra Corniche, past the iridescent mountains of fragrant spices of the Matra Souq, the city’s oldest bazaar. Julian’s eyes lit up as he sampled slow-cooked lamb schwa and spiced rice at Beit Al Ruban, a restaurant with free seating only on the sunny balcony. I laughed as Julian lifted my fork to his mouth and declared, “Num!” Eating was one of the few pleasures his father allowed himself. If he had been there, he would have smiled proudly.

Sultan Qaboos' palace in the old city of Musqa, Al AlamSultan Qaboos' palace in the old city of Musqa, Al Alam

Sultan Qaboos’ palace in the old city of Musqa, Al Alam

Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

Coffee break at Muska snack standCoffee break at Muska snack stand

Coffee break at a snack stand

Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

From Muscat, we drove through the rugged Al Hajar Mountains to the Gulf of Oman, passing a blur of beige cliffs and canyons to a soundtrack of Khalij music. oman radio. As this new old world passed by, I caught a glimpse of his son talking to himself in the background. Does he remember anything about it? Was there a connection? What mattered was that we were doing it here. we were alive.

Characterized by a coastline surrounded by karst and calm waters, Jumeirah Muscat Bay Beach resort looks like a screensaver. If Julian had been older, we might have been able to go kayaking or stand up paddleboarding, but we’d rather just soak in the waves and drink freshly squeezed watermelon coolers by the pool. I’ve calmed down. (Not that I cared.) The staff bent over backwards for the “little sultan,” who in turn shamelessly flirted with the beautiful Indonesian waitress. We then moved to the fortress-like Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, perched atop a 6,500-foot mountain massif. There, the crisp mountain air felt so good after a string of 100 degree days. Julian bravely toddled along a glass-bottomed viewing platform above the Jabal Al Akhdar gorge, watching as groundskeepers waved plump green olives from the trees.

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Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

Tea at Hudhud Camp in WahibaTea at Hudhud Camp in Wahiba

Tea at Hudhud Camp in Wahiba

Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

Unsurprisingly, Oman’s brutal heat led to some ferocious tantrums. Nowhere has my patience been tested more than at the Binma Sinkhole. Binma Sinkhole is a blue-green saltwater lake formed by the collapse of an underground cave and is only accessible via steep stairs. Julian insisted he crawl out on his own before collapsing in hot tears halfway through, and I had to scoop up this sweaty 27-pound bag of potatoes and drag him the quarter-mile back to the car. I had to. As the water work continued, a trio of teenage boys approached us with water bottles in hand, their faces filled with worry.

Hospitality in Oman is like any other country islamic countries I’ve been there before and it was one of a kind. Young men jumped into the car and helped us cross the road. In the souk, elderly men in ankle-length dishdashas high-fived Julian and tousled his blonde hair. The restaurant staff distracted him with balloons and goofy dance moves. Multiple strangers insisted on buying our snacks at the gas station. The warmth and kindness of the Omani people reminded me why I decided to make this trip in the first place. Most of all, I want my son to believe what I believe: that 99.9 percent of human beings are kind, and that we are far more similar than we are different. It is. Karmically speaking, you get out of life what you put into it. Just good vibes.

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Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

Wahiba Sands desert in eastern OmanWahiba Sands desert in eastern Oman

Wahiba Sands desert in eastern Oman

Murray Hall/Gallery Stock

The trip ended in a rustic tent camp at Wahiba Sands, a rugged desert three and a half hours from Muscat. For a toddler, the desert is basically a giant sandbox, and one of the happiest moments for me was watching Julian ride down the dunes in a tutu. He squealed in delight as the golden sand flowed between his thick fingers and laughed hysterically when the camel flashed its toothy grin.

As we drank tea on the terrace surrounding our tent, stars twinkling in the vast Cimmerian sky, and Julien dozed off against me, I recounted my adventures for my father. I imagined him somewhere beyond the Milky Way, everywhere at the same time, shaking his head the way his father would. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to go through it myself, but I’m grateful that I raised a daughter who was willing to embrace it all.

It first appeared Condé Nast Traveler

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