Saturday, July 23, 2011


Oman is a remote destination: until the 1980s the country has been off limits to any foreign visitors. To get to the south of the country, into once-rebellious Dhofar region, is difficult even today. Two crowded commuter planes per day depart from the Omani capital, or one can take a 10-hour drive on a mountainous road.  From Salalah, the center of Dhofar, there is a gravel road that leads north, over the mountains, then through the desert. After two hours one would reach the ruins of ancient city of Ubar. Beyond is nothing, the vast expanse of sandy Arabian desert, known here as the Empty Quarter.

Why do people travel to places like this?

Some scholars see a desire to experience the most remote and the least accessible places on the globe as a quest for personal authenticity. “They expect, and find, rejuvenation when they 
reach a world as far as possible away from their own, which changes them not only because of its purported primal spiritual power, but also because of the 
dangers and discomfort they have gone through to reach it. Tourists of this type 
resemble pilgrims to a holy site, practicing austerities along the way to ensure
 the validity of their religious experience.” (Charles Lindholm, Culture and Authenticity).

Exact nature of this “rejuvenation” might be hard to define.  I think it is different and personal for each participant, for each tourist. For some, it is just a welcome break, for others, a kind of immersive meditation. Getting a new sense of perspective. Clearing your head, as if restarting a computer. In times like these, we all should be doing it once in a while.