On a journey through Oman, Walking through Sorrow and Childhood

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I was three weeks away from a 23 day trip with mine child, Julian, when my father died suddenly. This trip was something I had planned a few months ago, determined to prove to all sign language people (and myself) that you don’t have to stop traveling after having a baby; you just have to find new ways to navigate the world. Out of sadness, I thought of giving up, but in the end I decided against it. My father was a book agoraphobic who shut himself off from the world and would end up leaving his house once or twice a year. But traveling was how I discovered who I was and who I wanted to be. I went to more than 80 countries and spent four years traveling all the time with a 35-liter. hunting it is a small hatchback. If I were to give any other qualities to my child, I would expect them to be stronger: insatiable curiosity, endless optimism, courage, and a willingness to follow where I am instead of expecting my environment to follow me.

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

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

Murray Hall / Gallerystock

The author's son, Julian, on the beach in Jumeirah Muscat BayThe author's son, Julian, on the beach in Jumeirah Muscat Bay

The author’s son, Julian, on the beach in Jumeirah Muscat Bay

Ashley Halpern

Our journey took us to swish Dubai to safari camps in Tanzania, but the part that revealed my sadness and my longing for motherhood was the week we spent in Oman travel along beaches, deserts, cities, and mountains on deserted highways. At midday in Muscat, the capital of a soft sea with high mountains, I chased Julian across the glittering marble and stone steps of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, where congregants greeted him with sweet dates. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed in, but a female security guard saw me walking in my hijab, a sticky baby clinging to my waist, and wisely ushered us through a side door to cool off under a large air-conditioning unit.

After sunset, we strolled along the Mutrah Corniche and past the rainbow of perfumes at the Mutrah Souq, the city’s oldest building. Julian’s eyes lit up when he tried slow-cooked lamb and spiced rice at Bait Al Luban, a restaurant where the only free seats were on the sun-drenched terrace. I laughed as Julian guided my fork to his mouth and announced, “Num!” Food was one of the few pleasures my father allowed. If he had been there, he would have been happy and proud.

Al Alam, the palace of Sultan Qaboos in Old MuscaAl Alam, the palace of Sultan Qaboos in Old Musca

Al Alam, the palace of Sultan Qaboos in Old Musca

Murray Hall / Gallerystock

Coffee break at a refreshing place in MuscaCoffee break at a refreshing place in Musca

Coffee break in a refreshing place
Flying

Murray Hall / Gallerystock

From Muscat, we drove through the mountains of Al Hajar to the Gulf of Oman, past beige cliffs and canyons to the khaliji music. Radio Omani. I saw my son in the background, muttering to himself as the new world moved on. Can he remember any of it? Was it important? The point was we were out here doing it. We were staying.

With its karst-side coast and calm waters, the Jumeirah Muscat Bay beach resort looks like a screensaver. If Julian had been older, we would have gone kayaking or stand up paddleboarding, but we settled in and splashed in the waves and drank cold freshly squeezed watermelons by the pool. (Not that I minded.) The staff bowed behind the “little king,” who in turn shamelessly flirted with the gorgeous Indonesian waitress. After that, we moved to a small lodge like Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, at an altitude of 6,500 meters, where the mountain breeze was nice after many 100 degree days. Al Akhdar, watching the caretakers shake the green olives from the trees.

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Murray Hall / Gallerystock

Tea at Wahiba's Hud Hud campTea at Wahiba's Hud Hud camp

Tea at Wahiba’s Hud Hud camp

Murray Hall / Gallerystock

Naturally, the heat of Oman’s punishment led to fierce anger. Nowhere was my patience tested more than at the Bimmah Sinkhole, a saltwater lake formed by the collapse of an underground cave, reached by a steep staircase. Julian insisted on climbing back up before collapsing in hot tears, forcing me to grab a sweaty 27 pound sack of potatoes and carry him back to the car. As the water works continued, three young men came to us carrying bottles of water, with a worried expression on their faces.

Hospitality in Oman, like others Muslim countries I’ve been there, it was incredible. Boys jumped into the streets to help us cross the road. In the souks, old men in dishdasha feeding on their legs was Julian tall and cut his blonde hair. The restaurant servers distracted him with balloons and dance moves. More than one visitor insisted on buying us snacks at the gas station. The warmth and grace of the Omani people reminded me why I chose this trip in the first place. Most of all, I want my son to believe what I believe: that 99.9 percent of people are kind and that we are more alike than we are different. Karmically speaking, you get out of life what you put into it. Only good vibes.

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Murray Hall / Gallerystock

Wahiba Sands Desert in East OmanWahiba Sands Desert in East Oman

Wahiba Sands Desert in East Oman

Murray Hall / Gallerystock

The trip revolved around a tent camp at Wahiba Sands, a desert three and a half hours from Muscat. For the little ones, the deserts are too big for sand, and one of the funniest moments was watching Julian’s beach under the mountains on his tuchus. He squealed in delight at the golden sand running through his chubby toes and let out a loud yelp as the camel flashed him with its teeth.

After drinking tea on the porch of our tent, the stars staring into the vast Cimmerian sky as Julian dozed off against me, I told him about my father’s experience. I imagined him up in the Milky Way, everywhere and nowhere at once, nodding his head like a father does—glad that he never met her but grateful that he had raised his daughter who he happily embraced.

He appeared first Condé Nast Traveler

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