I feel very foolish but the bearded stranger seems to think it was quite funny. Here we are, a local driver and a visitor, in Misfat al-Abriyyin – a village which I have never heard of and which the stranger doesn’t want to visit. And the man who brought us here has disappeared into some narrow streets where ended the rough track which had carried us up the steep hillside.
It’s a Friday, a non-working day here in Oman, and the Ministry had asked me to take the stranger on a day trip to the interior. He had done some research and told me where he wanted to go. We spent some time in Nizwa, admiring the market, the castle, the oasis. We went on to al-Hamra, out towards the Jebel Shams, at 3,000m the highest mountain in Oman. We found the ruins of old al-Hamra and he wandered around a bit. Then he said he’d like to go to the al-Hoota caves. I’d never heard of them but he told me there were kilometres of underground caves and several lakes, including famous blind fish. So I asked a man passing by if he could direct me to the caves. He said he was going there and accepted my invitation to ride in the car and direct us.
He fooled me. He has directed us to his village and disappeared. I still don’t know where the caves are.