Bat and Al Ayn Bronze Age Tombs

Al Ayn tombs

We first visited the 5,000 year old Bronze Age tombs at Al Ayn (in Oman, not UAE) several months ago. There’s another archeological site at Bat, maybe 30 minutes from Al Ayn, but when we first went we couldn’t find it. You might think that a UNESCO World Heritage site would have clear directions and labeling, but in Oman that’s not always the case.

We drove in the direction of the Bat Necropolis, thinking we’d see it from the road, and, as we bumped along an unending dirt road, we eventually gave up. We decided we’d go home, research the exact location, and come back knowing exactly where to go.

Remains of a tomb at Bat

Recently we had a chance to give the Bat Necropolis another shot, and this time we were successful! With the help of and precise GPS coordinates (23.274667,56.747666, in case you’re interested) we finally found it. If you use the GPS coordinates, you’ll drive along a paved road with the exact coordinates on the right. Before you reach the exact spot, you’ll notice a break in the fence with a dirt track leading into the site. Take the dirt track, which is most easily navigable with a high clearance vehicle, and you can drive around the Bat necropolis and explore. It’s a big area with rough dirt roads leading all over.

One of several tomb groupings at the Bat Necropolis

From the Bat Necropolis it’s about a 30 minute drive to the Al Ayn tombs, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Bat is more expansive than Al Ayn, but Al Ayn definitely wins for the “wow” factor. You can actually see the tombs from the road as you approach, perched on a ridge with a stunning mountain backdrop. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially in the late afternoon when the lighting is just right.

View of Al Ayn tombs from the road

Reaching the Al Ayn tombs is also a little tricky because, surprise, surprise, there are no signs. Each time we’ve gone, we see vehicles full of tourists stopped, not knowing where to go, and then they follow us in. To get to the tombs, turn to the left off the paved road onto a dirt track before you’ve gone past the tombs. Follow the dirt track up past the houses, and through the opening in the compound walls, where it looks like you’re driving into someone’s back yard. From here go down towards the wadi bed and turn right to drive up the wadi in the direction of the tombs. You’ll see a rough dirt track on an incline off to the left, which leads to a small parking lot. From here it’s a short walk uphill to the tombs.

Apparently the tombs at Bat and Al Ayn are some of the best-preserved Bronze Age tombs in the world. They were constructed 5,000 years ago, which makes them older than the Giza pyramids! It’s remarkable how well they’ve survived the passage of time, but I guess the environment in Oman facilitates that with little rain, climate change, or geological instability.

A note to tourists: please don’t climb on these structures. It may seem obvious, but judging by the number of people we saw climbing on tombs last time we went, apparently it’s not.



Adjusting to life in Muscat

Things are going well so far! Jet lag was more of a doozy this time around than expected and for several nights I couldn't fall asleep before 3 am. That sucked.

We love our housing and neighborhood. There is a grocery store, restaurants, and even a Starbucks within walking distance. The sidewalks are functional and it's easy to stroll around the neighborhood. Athena has two small yards that she can run around in!

One thing about our house that's taking some getting used to is the number of light switches. Between the first and second floors there are 63 light switches, and that's not counting the switches that provide power to appliances like the hot water heaters or the stove fan. These are all the light switches by the front door. Here we are lucky because half of them are labeled. Throughout most of the rest of the house there are no labels.

Thanks to our social sponsors, we found a good shawarma shop near a sandy beach. Last week we got shawarma and falafel sandwiches to go and ate dinner on the beach while M played in the surf. Well, technically I ate dinner while Nate kept M from drowning and then vice versa. The beach here is beautiful and the sun sets right over the water. I felt like I was on vacation. It's hard to believe we actually live here sometimes.
The restaurant scene here in general is pretty good. If you're used to paying D.C. prices, it's nothing out of the ordinary.

We don't have internet yet, so I'm blogging from my phone. I have no idea when we will actually get the internet set up. Luckily cellular data is relatively inexpensive, and that's really all I need. It would be nice to get the VPN set up so we can FaceTime with our families (Oman blocks all VOIP calls), but I know it will happen eventually.

Mostly it's the little things that I enjoy the most. I've missed hearing the call to prayer several times a day. We can't hear it inside our house but I always here it when we are out and about. I love stepping outside and smelling the salty sea air. It almost makes me forget how blazing hot it is. Almost. There are dumpsters everywhere for throwing garbage away and the streets are so clean. Muscat is definitely not a bad place to be.

Alright, my hands have fallen asleep from typing on my phone. We have planned for some fun stuff over the long Eid weekend and hopefully there will be more to come here soon. Preferably typed out on a computer.


This past month has been pretty awesome.  We went on our first R&R, which was a much-needed and thoroughly enjoyed four-week break from Dhaka.  And we found out where we are headed for our next post: MUSCAT, OMAN!

The first time I heard of Muscat, I was like, “Isn’t that a kind of wine?”  I had no idea it was a capital city, much less the capital city of a country I didn’t even really know existed. Oman isn’t in the news very much and I’ve never really bragged about my Middle Eastern geographical knowledge.  Thank goodness for Google.

After spending a lot of time on the internet and talking to as many people as we could about our decision to rank Muscat highly on our bid list, we are really happy we got one of our top choices. Yes, Oman is a conservative country (but not as conservative as, for instance, Saudi Arabia) and it’s really hot for a lot of the year, but Muscat is right on the water, outdoor activities abound, there’s hardly any crime, and the climate is apparently perfect four months out of the year. And there are not tons of people and cars everywhere, we’ll be able to travel through the country, we could drive to Dubai, and there is hardly any air pollution!  We’ll be able to go camping on the beach, snorkeling, explore the dessert, and take Athena for walks outside again.  Even she’ll be able to go swimming in the Gulf. People other than our parents want to come and visit us!

I’m sure there will be challenges and difficulties that I can’t foresee.  God only knows there were/are plenty here in Dhaka.  But for now we are pretty fricking excited!

Almost a year in

I can’t believe we’ve been here almost a year.  What a time it has been.

The other day a good friend pointed out to me that I haven’t been blogging lately.  It’s hard to blog when things are “meh.” I wrote a post on our recent trip to Kuala Lumpur (which was so much fun) and then the pictures wouldn’t load onto WordPress, so I gave up on publishing it.  But things have been happening around here, and life goes on.

A few weeks ago there was a craft bazaar at the Canadian High Commission.  One of the vendors had this massive etched brass plate with elephants and stuff on it, and when I asked the price he quoted me something outrageous. So I asked where his shop was, figuring I could go see the plate there and maybe get a better price.  I went a few days ago, and there, again, was the plate.  I asked how much it cost, and the price did indeed come down significantly.  He told me it was 450 years old and from the Mughal era.  If that’s not a dubious claim, I don’t know what is.  It looks old, but not that old.  Who knows, maybe it’s new and they buried it in some dirt to make it look old. I told Nate it’s supposedly a Mughal plate, and he said that would make us archeological artifact smugglers if we bought it, assuming it is indeed that old.  I got the shopkeeper to come down to what I consider a reasonable price for a big metal plate with an interesting design of unknown age/origin, so we’ll see what happens.

The ayah has started giving me unsolicited directions on child-rearing.  We started feeding M solid foods when he turned six months old, and we’d been giving him purees for breakfast and dinner.  The other day, around noon, I was holding M with one hand and peeling a banana with the other.  M was lurching towards the banana, clearly very interesting.  The ayah saw this, and said, “You give him breakfast and dinner.  Why no lunch?”  So now M gets lunch too, which I suppose was bound to happen eventually anyway since most people do, in fact, eat lunch.  One night Nate and I came home around 7:30 and M was already in his pjs.  She said “He needs milk and then he goes to sleep.”  Yes m’am.

Our apartment is long and narrow, and all the windows on the long side border a single family home, the yard of which we can see into easily. One night we heard tons of barking and it turned out they’d gotten a dog.  A large, full-grown dalmatian, to be exact. During the day they chained it up to this covered area in the front yard, and the chain was maybe 4 feet long.  The dog barked like mad pretty much all day long, and Athena was in a perpetual tizzy.  They gave the dog food and water, and their gardener touched it with a long stick every time he went near it, but thankfully we never saw anyone be mean to the dog.  And he treated the stick like a toy/scratching pole.  Then after about four days of non-stop barking, everything was quiet and the dog was gone.  In fact, it now looks like the dog was never even there.  No chain, no water dish, nothing.  Who knows where the dog went, but Nate and I have decided that they had a weekend visitor that insisted on bringing their dog with them.  It’s the most reasonable and humane explanation we could think of.

Oh, one of my toenails fell off.  I’m almost 100% certain it’s because of a bad pedicure from La Femme. I’ve never lost a toenail before, even with marathon training, so this is uncharted territory.  I’m just glad it never got infected.  That’s Dhaka for you… even my toenails are like “What the fuck.”

Now I’m going to figure out how to finally get the pictures into the Kuala Lumpur post!

The one where everyone sweated

If there’s anything I’ve learned about Bangladeshi cooking at this point, it’s that it is not only delicious, it’s also usually pretty spicy.  Sometimes I have to literally pick out the chilies.

This week we made butter chicken using one of the spice packets that Nate bought at the Bangladeshi market.  It was good, although a bit spicier than I’d anticipated. During the course of eating dinner, we managed to use up all the kleenexes in the vicinity.

I was telling my officemate about the shit-ton of Bangladeshi spice mixes that we have at home, and she mentioned that she was going to make a curry but didn’t have any curry powder.  “No problem!” I said, “I’ll give bring you a spice mix to use!”

I brought her a spice packet from the box labelled “quorma,” and she made it that night for dinner. Later I got a text from her saying that the curry was “really good” and “really spicy.”

Uh-oh… how spicy is really spicy?  Then she said “I couldn’t eat it all, my mouth is on fire.”

Oops. I felt terrible.

Apparently her husband sat there eating dinner with sweat rolling down his face.

I apologized repeatedly, and she advised me to only use half the spice packet when we make the quorma, which is definitely advice I’ll be taking to heart.