Location: Khor Grama Island, Sur, Oman
Meeting Khamis for the third time somehow made me realize how strangers can be friends with minimal effort from both sides. All it takes is enthusiasm and a whole lot of smiles. My friend Chris Amy already shared a special friendship with Khamis and it was enough for him that we were friends with her. The first time we met him, he welcomed us wholeheartedly without any reservations. Somehow the way his face lights up whenever we visit him, makes us feel pretty special.
This time we had promised Teresa, a friend who was visiting from Chicago, a sail in Khamis’s fishing boat. Chris said this was the best way Teresa would get to experience a beautiful sunset from the middle of the sea.
To state that Khamis lives modestly would be an understatement. The small relatively unknown fishing village where he lives is called Khor Grama in the Wilayat of Sur in the Sultanate of Oman.
It was just after lunch hour when we neared the island of Khor Grama. On the way we stopped at a small tea shop and bought some take away egg sandwiches to eat on the boat. Chris called Khamis and unwittingly woke him up from his siesta. Nevertheless, he was there to greet us with his usual smile when we reached the village fifteen minutes later.
Though Khamis looks to be in his mid thirties, we know he has four kids, probably marrying young as most Omani men do. The majority of his earnings come from the catch of the day and in the evenings, especially during tourist season, he drives up in his Toyota pick-up to the Ras Al Jinz beach nearby to help in the turtle tracking.
But Khamis is a contented man. You can see it in his eyes and his smile that says he hasn’t a care in the world. When I look at him, I find it pretty easy to recall Oman’s biblical connection to fishermen, a connection that can be traced back to Prophet Job’s tomb in Salalah.
Like all Omanis, Khamis’s hospitality is boundless, rather like the open seas on which he fishes. On every occasion we have visited him, he has invited us to share a meal with him or stay at his house instead of staying at the nearby hotel. One day soon we have promised to visit his home and enjoy a meal cooked by his wife.
A little later we reached the beach and found it was low tide. On the surface the island itself seems pretty nondescript. The beach was slushy and dotted with dead sea urchins that squished under my feet on the wet brownish sand. But when I looked up and beyond, the scenic panorama in front of me seemed to scoff that I ever thought of this place as ordinary.
My eyes took in the picture postcard scene that awaited us. A part of the Arabian sea flows into an inlet and pools into this lagoon, stretching out for miles and miles and the further you sail, the deeper you can merge into its magical silence.
Slippers in hand, we waded out knee deep and got into the boat. Khamis started the motor and we were off. It was the perfect time to share our sandwiches with Khamis. He on his part, took out his customary flask and poured out hot tea for us as we sailed deeper into the sea.
The sun was now preparing to set and its golden heat had mellowed into a silvery sheen that reflected on the water. All was peaceful and quiet in the middle of the ocean and we just sat there sipping our tea and being enveloped into the silence.
Teresa was enchanted and said it was the most beautiful place she had seen. We were glad we had brought her here. It was our favorite pastime anyway – showing off the beauty of Oman to our visitors.
We stayed in the middle of the ocean for quite some time. Khamis’s weather beaten face was animated as he moved with enviable agility from one end of the boat to the other letting down the anchor and looking for the best spot to fish. Finally, he prepared fishing lines for us and we threw in the bait and waited and waited. But fishing experts we were not. Khamis was kind enough to blame it on the erratic undercurrents.
We also met a few other fishermen who were scouring the waters for possible fishing prospects. They stopped their boat next to ours for an impromptu meet and greet session. It seemed surreal having a social get together literally in the middle of nowhere.
Very few tourists know of the beauty of this island beyond the fishing village. Those who do, come here again and again. The first time I was on Khamis’s boat I met a tourist from Australia. He said he had been coming once in two years to Oman and booked a boat to go inland every time. My mind asked the question “Why? Why do you come thousands of miles to this remote unknown corner just to sit on a boat in the middle of the ocean and do some fishing?” But sipping my chai in the middle of the ocean and doing the same thing, I had my answer.
Finally, it was time to return and we headed back to the shore. Khamis revved up the engine and took us back at super speed. We said our goodbyes to him and judging by his smiles, he probably knew he was not seeing the last of us.
As the perfect touch to our day out, we drove to the Pink beach at Ras Al Hadd which is just ten mins from Khor Grama village. This beach has small pink snail shells spread along the sand and hence the name.
This is where we managed to get the final glow of a warm and beautifully red sunset, before finally driving back to Muscat.
Getting to Sur from Muscat – drive on Route 17. Once you get out of the city limits, take the Quriyat road. (Khor Grama falls in the Sharquiya region.)
Time – 2 hrs approx.
Distance – 210 kms approx.